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The Assassination Of Richard Nixon
cast: Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, and Naomi Watts

director: Niels Mueller

91 minutes (15) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Martin Drury
You've lost everything. Your mood swings from pole to polar opposite and your wife no longer glances at your face. Your best friend tried, but now, even he has given up on you. You're alone and your misery really doesn't cut it in the company department. It's time to play the blame game. Whose fault is it? Answers on a postcard to the following address...

But wait, a glimmer of hope has just sparkled over the horizon. What if it's not your fault? What if it's all someone else's fault? What if you don't have to blame yourself at all? What if everything could be put back to normal with one act? One act of violence... What if violence could solve everything? What if one man's death could give you back your life? The President of the United States is the enemy. It's time for him to die.

There's one thing wrong with this film from the very start. You, the viewer, cannot fault Sam's (Sean Penn) reasoning. What one is supposed to see as a bizarre interpretation of the world and the onset of a destructive mania, simply appears to the viewer as common sense. Richard Nixon was a bad President and history will take the stand to confirm it. Richard Nixon caused a lot of problems for the American people. It's only natural that someone, somewhere, would become rather angry with a President who had no idea how to bring troops home from Vietnam. To say nothing of Watergate... Thus, from the very outset, one sympathises with Sam. True, there are American audiences watching this film muttering: 'Why does he have to try to kill the President? Why can't he just shout about his problems on Ricki Lake like everybody else?' But British audiences in particular will look at this interpretation of the fallen man - this portrait of a man in pain, and think to themselves that all his problems could be sorted out with a warm mug of tea and a chat. We're not scared of what Sam might do. We pity him. He's not a hardened nutcase. He's a man looking for meaning in his life.

Naomi Watts is gorgeous and brilliant. But then, you expected that much. Don Cheadle is the master of the understated role and plays the long-suffering friend as a man torn between his friend and any prospect of continued sanity. The Assassination Of Richard Nixon is a powerful film that demands the attention of its audience throughout. However, there's certainly some discrepancy as to which genre this film belongs to. Is the movie a thriller? Is this film meant to serve as a historical piece or a biography of a crazed individual? Is this film equipped with a social conscience? Does it ask society to take better care of the desperate, the down trodden and those locked within the grasp of despair? The DVD extras only serve to confuse things even more. The viewer is treated to a number of biographies about the cast members and a documentary about the true-life inspiration for the film.

The Assassination Of Richard Nixon is a film to behold, to enjoy and to cherish. But one cannot escape the feeling that both the movie and the DVD were supposed to make a much bigger splash than they ever actually did.

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