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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sean Penn tour de force, 20 Sept. 2005
By 
L. Davidson (Belfast, N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
The title of this film is a bit of a misnomer, as "Assassination" is a movie about the mental breakdown of a middle aged man ,neither a political thriller like "The Parallax View" or "All the Presidents Men" nor an investigative retrospective like "JFK" or "Nixon". It has more similarities to Michael Douglas' "Falling Down" than any of these movies. Sean Penn plays Sam Bicke, a quixotic, mild mannered and unsuccessful salesman whose marriage has just collapsed. As a sense of personal failure and loneliness engulfs Sam, President Nixon becomes a scapegoat for his ills. Sean Penn puts in a superb and memorable performance as Sam Bicke, capturing brilliantly the edginess and simmering desperation of a decent, honest man stuck in the wrong profession ,unable to command the respect of his peers (or indeed himself )and his subsequent descent into homicidal behaviour . Penn's acting is immense in one of the best cinematic characterisations of the year to date.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Salesman..., 20 Aug. 2005
By 
Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Thomas Hobbes once wrote that our lives are "nasty, brutish and short." Such a pessimistic reading of the human condition is fully borne out by Director Niels Mueller's film.
By the time the film reaches its bloody climax, you'll be hard pressed to purse your lips to whistle "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." This is a relentless look at hope destroyed by delusion and the fallacy of the American Dream.
Penn plays Sam Bicke, a man who does not sit easy in his own skin. A salesman who does not like telling lies, when his boss suggests that Richard M Nixon is the "worlds greatest Salesman" because he won the Presidency twice on the false premises of pulling out of Vietnam, Bicke is quick to begin transferring his personal issues onto the President. Slowly, this builds to the films' terrible denouement.
As we are introduced to Bicke, we shortly learn that his marriage is all but over. His new job as a salesman in an office furniture store gives him a new surge of optimism. Filled with this new hope he tentatively attempts reconciliation with his estranged wife (Naomi Watts). He's also inspired to push hard at his idea for his own business, believing this will really be the key to his personal salvation. Caught up in his enthusiasm is his best friend (played by Don Cheadle), in turns bemused, exasperated and concerned by his friends sullen rages at 'the system.'
But then, one failure sparks another. Bicke's failure to reach his wife leads to divorce, and the resulting embittered angry state leads to an outburst that gets him fired. Increasingly desperate, he pins all his hopes and self worth on his business proposition, leading him to a catastrophic gamble in 'borrowing' a large amount of stock from his brother's business that he hopes to pay back before anyone notices. But of course it doesn't turn out that way. His business proposition turned down, Bicke hits bottom and then tries to claw further down.
There are scenes of unbearable pathos in this film: Bicke's fumbled attempts at reconciliation with his wife, proudly displaying his new 'salesman' business card as if it will make everything alright; Bicke pitching hard for his 'mobile tyre shop' business; Bicke attempting to sell a member of the Black Panthers his idea for 'the Zebras' ("..black and white... you'll double your membership..."). Penn's playing of the character is excellent, a gripping portrayal of a man drowning on dry land. Excellent support is provided by Naomi Watts, admirably conveying compassion fatigue for her beleaguered ex, and Cheadle as his friend, supportive but irritated by Bicke's tendency to project his issues onto the wider political landscape.
Mueller's attempt to describe the often-fraught relationship between individual and state, whilst wrestling with very complex psychological and emotional issues, is brave and admirable. That the film becomes hard work, and not an experience you're likely to repeat, lies with the lack of any compassion for the audience. There's no catharsis, no redeeming final notes to send us away feeling that there may be candles in the darkness. There's defeat, delusion, a tragic fall and ultimately...a violent defeat and delusion. Similar attempts to show characters ripped apart by the American Dream have given some redemption, some glimpse of something that may ultimately transform the destructive patterns embedded in our collective psyche. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman achieves, finally, self-awareness. It kills him, true, but at least it's there, as is the love of his family. In Mueller's film, any saving elements are too fleetingly glimpsed to register. The result saddens and numbs, and feels incomplete.
However, this remains a relevant, brave and intelligent film. See it if you're feeling thick-skinned.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When is a failure not a failure?, 14 Nov. 2005
By 
Mr. J. WARE "wolvieware" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
When it is this film, of course!
This film is anything but a failure. It is a stunning portrayal of Sam Byck, who tried to, obviously, kill Richard Nixon. His pitiful attempt was easily stopped by the police in a showdown at an airport, but his motives were unknown. This film tries to fill in the gaps...
Firstly, Sean Penn. Amazing in this role, he keeps surprising with his versatility. Just when you think you have Penn susses, he pulls a new acting direction out of his pocket. Here he plays Sam as a hypocrite, aloof, awkward, and a rebel aginst the system.
It's riveting to watch this one man blame everybody but himself. He thinks the system is lying,and wants to stand out. Some of the situations he gets himself into are squirm inducing. You can see he's being awkward and embarrassing but he doesn't see himself.
The disintegration of his family and work life, and his outspoken views lead him to one conclusion, he must kill the person he feels is responsible.
This is a stunning drama, but even so, a few things in the film don't quite make it a classic. The ending is slightly drawn out. It's a short film as it is, but the film's climax seems to take a long time coming. You know what's going to happen, so does the character, but the director seems to just pad the ending out.
Also, Sam's family, including an under-appreciated Noami Watts, is an interesting piece to the story, but they virtually dissappear from the film half way through. Another storyline abandoned, is when Sam wants to help the Black Panther political group. It's picked up, but never truly explored or concluded.
Still, this film is hard to take your eyes off the screen. It's a brilliant portrayal, filmed mostly handheld, giving it an intimate feeling.
The behind the scenes documentary is too short to give anything worthy, but the small article written on the real Sam Byck is very interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Study Of A Troubled Mind, 8 Oct. 2007
By 
Mr. F. E. Marioni "fran151278" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
The story of Samuel J. Bicke, (played brilliantly by Sean Penn) a reluctant furniture salesman who despite being at the top in the firm leads an unhappy life. Viewed by those around him as a loser with no hope of ever achieving anything. Separated by his wife Marie (Naomi Watts) and his two children, estranged from his brother his only friend is Bonny (Don Cheadle) who is settled in life and doesn't seem to have the time for someone so out of sync with life. Disallusioned with the capalist society and the impossible task of achieving the American Dream he sets on a crazy plot to kill President Nixon whose lies during Watergate are ever prevolent in Sam's mind as the sourse of everything that has gone wrong in his own life.
This film is not a thriller its a study into one mans despair and how evry little obstacle becomes a mountain. Penn is amazing as the troubled lead and is supported well by Watts and Cheadle although Jack Thompson steals every scene as the lying cheating boss from hell which also provides some much needed humour to the proceedings.
A Thought provoking film very well executed by director Neils Mueller. With some standout scenes most notably the family dinner with Bonny, Sams "reunion" with his brother and an outstanding subtle ending make this film essential viewing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Class Act, 27 Mar. 2006
This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Sean Penn must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when he read this script. Not only does it tick all his anti-consumerism, leftwing, political boxes but it is also represents an actor's wet dream; a movie geared toward one central performance. Fortunately Penn is in gargantuan form in the role of Sam Bicke, one of life's terminal losers who cannot understand or function within society. He's like the bastard son of Travis Bickle and Fargo's Jerry Lundegaard. A strange, frightening man who finally comes unhinged in a finale every bit as shocking as Taxi Driver's.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the view according to www.georgevader.co.uk, 29 Aug. 2007
By 
R. J. Williams "Postie" (Clevedon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Loosely based on the true story, Sean Penn stars as Samuel Joseph Byck a furniture salesman who live seems to be going downhill fast.Separated from his wife, under performs in his job and is constantly rejected by banks in his effort to ressurect his brothers old tyre business.When his wife serves him divorce papers and he is turned down for a bank loan his state of mind crumbles and he hatch's an elaborate plan to hijack an airliner and crash it into The White House.

The combination of an excellent story and a stunning performance from Penn make this compelling viewing, Penn must surely be one of the finest actors of his generation.The film is quite reminiscent of 'Taxi Driver', Samuel and Travis Bickle have a lot in common, ordinary hard working Americans constantly being put down by the establishment and those in power.

Powerful, taught and a dynamite performance from Penn.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Penn's Oscar-Worthy Performance, 3 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Whether you like the subject matter or not, some performances just have to be watched- this is one of them. Penn is incredible in this film, even by his own high standards, and is perfectly supported by Naomi Watts and Don Cheadle. Although the most dramatic events in the film are based on fact and the central character was a very real person, some of the movie has been fictionalised in an attempt to throw up possible motives for his disintegration into madness and violence. It's directed with alot of skill and sensitivity, and was certainly one of the best films of 2005.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Assassination of an Ideal, 7 Dec. 2005
This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
As usual Sean Penn gives more than 110% to his performance, and holds the screen beautifully. It is crippling viewing as we watch his character slide into a spiral of destruction, culminating in the mad rush at the end to hijack a plane. Penn's performance makes for uncomfortable and voyueristic viewing. Everything about this movie is timed beautifully, with a slow, melancholic pace that matches Bick's slide. The pace makes the end scenes all the more dramatic and shocking. It's a sad little tale, and this film probably gives the tale more drama than originally felt. Good stuff again from Penn, who seriously has to be the best actor around.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In 50 words-ish, 1 Nov. 2005
This review is from: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Not an event that made Nixon’s radar, but a compelling portrait of disintegration in the face of inability to conform. Blaming the system, but isolated by the radicals of the day’s concern for race not class and ultimately, inept it’s a surprise he got so close to crashing a plane into the White House.
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The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD]
The Assassination Of Richard Nixon [DVD] by Niels Muller (DVD - 2005)
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