Movie review: The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)

The Assassination of Richard Nixon shows the slow disintegration of a single man. Sam Bick just can’t fit in. He can’t keep a job. He is plagued by people who disrespect him and ask him to lie in order to earn a living. He goes from job to job to job.

He dreams of being his own boss, of being an honest businessman. The dissolution of those dreams seems to push him over the edge that he has been teetering on.

He identifies with the downtrodden, those out of power, those used, those lied to, those disrespected. He turns up at a Black Panthers’ office discussing with them his support of their movement…that he is the same as them. Even though he is white.

The backdrop to his life is Richard Nixon on TV. Richard Nixon giving an address to the nation. Richard Nixon dancing with his daughter at her wedding. Richard Nixon escaping an assassination attempt in the form of a helicopter crashing into the White House.

And thus was Sam’s idea hatched—hijack an airplane and order it flown into the White House in an attempt to bring down Nixon, the ultimate liar and manipulator.

Sean Penn gives a powerful performance as the man going over the edge. Don Cheadle does a good job playing his staunch friend and hoped-to-be future business partner, though I am perplexed for the reasons for the friendship.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon gives a glimpse into the life and psyche of a potential assassin and murderer of innocent lives (that of his dog as well as people on the hijacked plane). Why does someone kill bystanders or even family? Why does someone take out others when he wants to die or sacrifice his own life? The film doesn’t answer these questions but brings them front and center.

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