More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 38.89%
Worth A Look50%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 2.78%
Total Crap: 2.78%

3 reviews, 18 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Koko-di Koko-da by Jay Seaver

Shirley by Peter Sobczynski

Dreamland (2019) by Peter Sobczynski

Lucky Grandma by Jay Seaver

Vast of Night, The by Peter Sobczynski

High Note, The by Peter Sobczynski

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The by Jay Seaver

Trip to Greece, The by Peter Sobczynski

Night God by Jay Seaver

Alice (2019) by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Assassination of Richard Nixon, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Elaine Perrone

"Deja vu, all over again."
4 stars

The year is 1974. Richard Nixon is at the midpoint of his second term as president, and the United States is a country divided. For one man, Sam Bicke (Sean Penn), the Land of Plenty has become a place where "there's plenty for the few and nothing for the plenty," a travesty he blames squarely on the administration of Richard Milhouse Nixon. For another man, Sam's boss Jack Jones (Jack Thompson), the owner of an office furniture store, Nixon is "the greatest salesman in history." Telling his sales staff that the key to successful selling is "belief," he points to Nixon, marveling that the man got himself elected on the promise to get the country out of Viet Nam, instead proceeded to send in an additional 100,000 troops, then got himself re-elected on exactly the same promise to end the war. OUCH!!!

Sam, a careworn man in his mid-40s, isn't a believable salesman to anyone, least of all himself. His wife Marie (Naomi Watts) has left him, in what he has convinced himself is a trial separation but for her is a done deal. He hates his work, and is terrible at it, fundamentally incapable of telling a customer, as Jack has coached him, that a Naugahyde chair is "real leather covered with Naugahyde." What Sam really wants to do is open a mobile tire-repair business with his friend Bonny (Don Cheadle). On the strength of a promise from President Nixon to "help the small-businessman," Sam applies for an SBA loan, seeming to understand inherently that the loan isn't going to come through.

While Sam waits the interminable eight weeks that he is told it will take for his application to be processed, he is surrounded by images of the Watergate debacle as it unfolds, fomenting his feelings of powerlessness and rage at the villainy, injustice, and hypocrisy of the world around him. When he sees news footage of an Army private who has stolen a military helicopter and landed it on the White House lawn, with a comment by a newscaster how easy it would have been to crash the helicopter into the White House, Sam begins to see a way for the world to finally sit up and take notice of him.

Based upon the true story of a Baltimore man who, in 1974, hijacked an airplane with the intent of crashing it into the White House, The Assassination of Richard Nixon is highly relevant to the mood of America today as well as being chillingly prescient to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. It is also another acting tour de force for Sean Penn, who at times is barely recognizable as a meek man whose self-worth is defined by his neatly trimmed mustache.

Sadly, what had all the potential of being a riveting and harrowing moviegoing experience ended up being terribly unsatisfying because, in the end, it is merely a capsule of an event and gives no picture at all of what led up to it. At one point, Sam must have been a happily married man with a home in the suburbs, a lovely wife, and two sweet children. How everything ended up going sour for him, we are given no clue, nor are we really given any idea how he came to see a suicidal act of terrorism as his only recourse.

There are two facets of "Assassination" that give it its humanity. One is the extensive use of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, directed by Leonard Bernstein, who is Sam's ideal of all that is pure and honest in the world. The other is a lovely scene in which Sam visits the Baltimore headquarters of the Black Panthers, donating money to their cause and telling them that they could broaden their base by including whites and renaming themselves the Zebras. Unlike many films that could do with a good 30 minutes of trimming, I would have welcomed another half-hour of back story to augment "Assassination"'s spare 103 minutes of running time.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/14/04 09:14:21
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/15/10 Phineas Would UnHolywood do a film praising a man who tried to kill a Dem. Pres?NEVER.Lefty Devils. 1 stars
10/14/09 R.W. Welch Slow but pretty well done overall. C+ 3 stars
1/15/08 Pote Penn in form in interesting character study 4 stars
12/03/07 mr.mike brings to mind "taxi driver" and "the parallax view" 4 stars
2/21/06 Annie G Drags at times, but, overall, a good movie. 4 stars
11/21/05 tatum A stunning film and performance 5 stars
7/09/05 John Bale A riveting performance by Penn as the disturbed loser of the American Dream 5 stars
6/25/05 Kankasaur Bicke is to Bickle as Wile E. Coyote is to Count Dracula. 5 stars
6/22/05 Phil M. Aficionado "Bravo" debut effort by Mueller; a gem by Penn. Stark, compelling, well-paced, smart 5 stars
5/28/05 MLW Touching movie, but there is no core. The heart of Bicke is nihilisitic in the end. 4 stars
3/04/05 Kathy ter Plugg "lock up all 'loners'? Serious EricD? Fart humor is looking better and better! 3 stars
3/04/05 John Fraser this film should have been nominated for an Oscar 5 stars
2/12/05 jcjs wonderful 5 stars
2/11/05 Heather Purplethorne Catchy title, but unfortunately, all downhill from there. 2 stars
2/01/05 Robert Pfeifer Sean Penn was brilliant !!!! 5 stars
1/08/05 Jim The Movie Freak Great film with a phenomenal performance by Penn who's at the top of his game like Eastwood 5 stars
12/16/04 Mike V It's a fine movie but it's Taxi Driver. Penn is great though. 4 stars
9/20/04 denny penn was once again excellent; bick was edgy but not worthy of comparison to taxi driver 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  29-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 26-Apr-2005



Directed by
  Niels Mueller

Written by
  Niels Mueller
  Kevin Kennedy

  Sean Penn
  Naomi Watts
  Don Cheadle
  Jack Thompson
  Brad Henke
  Jared Dorrance

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast