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'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' DVD Review *** 070705
(2004)

The work = ***
What ever you may think of Sean Penn it is pretty hard to deny the guy’s talent as an actor. Actually he is a pretty good filmmaker too, having written and directed a trio of features: 'The Indian Runner', 'The Crossing Guard' and 'The Pledge'. A sure fire way to judge an actor’s talent is if his or her performance still comes through in a film that is not that great. Sometimes a poor film can so bury a performance that all I can catch are glimpses of an actor’s talent poking through. I have yet to see Penn in a film that he gives a bad performance in. I’m not saying there isn’t a film out there but of what I’ve seen, whether I like the film or not, he is always solid and often amazing.

Take 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' for example. Penn gives a wonderful performance that makes the film watchable and allows me to give it a marginal recommendation. To be fair 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' is not a badly made film, it is just not a particularly enjoyable one. It is solidly directed and well acted but the movie is so slow that it can be hard to watch. Sometimes when the subject of a film is depressing or sad, I can still enjoy a film for say, the dialogue. 'The Grey Zone' is a thoroughly sad film and it too has great performances. It also has crackling dialogue and a dramatic arch about redemption that make it engaging despite being about such a depressing subjec.

Here in this film I followed Penn as Sam Bicke. Bicke is a divorced salesman with one friend and a lot of problems. The trouble is, most of his problems are on the inside and no one else seems to be able to see them. He reminded me a bit of Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese’s 'Taxi Driver'. Like Bickle he seems to be a man that is slowly boiling.

Bicke wants to get back together with his wife and be a part of a happy family with her and the kids. His wife Marie (Naomi Watts) clearly does care for him but is no longer interested in pursuing their relationship. What ever happened between them happened and was serious enough to cause them to separate. She wants the best for him but has moved on and is seeing someone else. Bicke lacks social skills and often says the wrong thing and either confuses or downright insults the person he is talking to. It is not clear how he ended up with Marie in the first place but Watts and Penn are so convincing in their portrayals that just looking at them made me realize any relationship between the two would have failed.

DVD = ***

The Look
'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' gets a pretty decent transfer, nothing remarkable but a pretty good job. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.

The Sound
New Line has put a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. I listened to the 2.0 track and it sounded good to me. All the dialogue was audible and the music and effects sounded clear. English and Spanish Subtitles are also on the DVD.

The Bonus
New Line, New Line, New Line! What are you doing to me? Nothing? No features at all? How about something on the real Bicke? How about some interviews? A commentary track? A f***ing trailer???? Come on!! Honestly, this movie screams for some sort of extra feature, especially on the film vs reality and what the filmmakers were trying to say with the story of Bicke. Boooooooo for New Line.

All Together = ***
So here it is, as I see often with good actors, the cast pulls enough weight to make me give this a recommendation. Penn especially is impressive but the supporting cast, too help to make this sad tale enjoyable. I wish I knew a bit more the real Bicke and the production of the film. No thanks to New Line for nixing on the features. Who knows though maybe the director is like Woody Allen and wants no features on his film's releases. What ever the case, an opportunity was missed here. Never the less I give this one a light recommendation but you may want to try a rental first.

-Nate

'Assassination of Richard Nixon' Links:

IMDB

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