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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday, April 20, 2014 - Edition No 893 

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ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Inspired by real events in 1974 when 44 year old Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn) reaches a nadir in his life, as his estranged wife (Naomi Watts) and his brother (Michael Wincott) finally abandon him, his loan for a new business with his auto mechanic friend and would be partner Bonny (Don Cheadle) is declined and he is struggling to hold onto his job as an office supply salesman for his boss (Jack Thompson). Desperation breeds uncharacteristic determination in Bicke, who sets out on a single minded crusade to right the wrongs against him - and the world - in a single act that would make his presence felt.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mr Invisible, with low self esteem and good reason for it, is sliding down the pole of his life. His personal woes drag him into a general disillusionment with America, nay the whole world. A pain-racked performance from Sean Penn as Sam Bicke brings this real life character to life in a film that is engrossing and compelling for its minute but acute observations about the human condition through the pathetic last days of an American who never got his hands on the American dream - and blamed those in power for his failings and failures.

Based on fact and well researched, The Assassination of Richard Nixon is crafted with tender loving care, a work of determined passion by Niels Mueller - and a large team of producers including the likes of Leonardo di Caprio and filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron & Jorge Vergara (makers of Y Tu Mama Tambien, who used profits from their film to help Mueller make this one).

The fascination of these filmmakers with the story of Sam Bicke is perhaps to be found in the elements of the story: shattered dreams from which Bicke tried to escape by the dead end route of a desperate act far beyond his abilities. The character study he offers is irresistible. "I am an honest man," he says at one point, "and I will not go quietly." The irony inherent in this grows by the minute as the story unfolds.

But Mueller is also smitten by the parallels with today's America; so the private hell of Sam Bicke is just a small part of the major hell that is America's tortured social profile today. It's riveting stuff.

Two Australian actors deliver great performances; Jack Thompson as Mr Jones, Bicke's natural born salesman boss, and Naomi Watts as his estranged wife who finally divorces him, driving one of the final nails into his spiritual, emotional coffin. Don Cheadle is superb as his pragmatic black friend Bonny, and the script lets them find the emotive spaces that magnify the words.

The era of Nixon, Vietnam, the Black Panthers and the beginnings of self doubt in American society ...the historic setting and the personal tragedy fuse effectively in this powerful film.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, THE (MA)
(US/Mexico, 2004)

CAST: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Brad Henke, Nick Searcy, Michael Wincott, April Grace

PRODUCER: Alfonso Cuaron, Jorge Vergara

DIRECTOR: Niels Mueller

SCRIPT: Niels Mueller, Kevin Kennedy

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Emmanuel Lubezki

EDITOR: Jay Cassidy

MUSIC: Steven M. Stern

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lester Cohen

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 9, 2005







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