The Assassination of Richard Nixon (15)
Time Out saysIn ‘Carlito’s Way’, it was the frizzy hair. Here, it’s a dodgy, sleazy moustache that Sean Penn suffers for his art. Indeed it’s worth the money simply to see both that and Penn’s dodgy ’70s car salesman outfit in this exploration of the flipside of the American dream, a story inspired by one man’s failed attempt in 1974 to hijack a commercial airliner and plunge it into the White House. Sounds familiar? The obvious parallel with 9/11 lends this film a political significance that it doesn’t really deserve. Still, Niels Mueller’s debut film is an unsettling, credible portrait of one man’s descent into madness – a portrait that relies heavily on a tour de force performance from Penn. It’s also a neat slice of suburban America at a specific point in history, an America overshadowed and influenced by the corruption of its government.
Penn is Sam Bicke, one of life’s losers. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy, whose domestic and professional lives are a mess. His wife Marie (Naomi Watts) has left him with the kids. His oily boss Jack Jones (Jack Thompson) watches as he desperately stutters his way through a job as a furniture salesman and is eventually fired. His brother Julius (Michael Wincott) wants nothing to do with his sad-sack sibling. And the bank is not a bit interested in his application for a loan so that he can start a small business as a door-to-door tyre salesman with his one sympathetic friend, Bonny (Don Cheadle). All of which tries Bicke’s patience to such an extent that he develops delusions of grandeur, espouses strong but flawed political ideas into a tape recorder and decides to do something about the figurehead of all this trauma: President Nixon himself. A riveting, if slightly undeveloped, tale. Thank God for Penn.
Fri Apr 8, 2005