A review of “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ***

Rating: R for violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes



          Welcome to Sam Bicke’s world, a landscape littered with failed employment opportunities, dwindling friendships, and broken promises.  Increasingly embittered and borderline paranoiac, Bicke’s daily reality is shaded in grey and slipping away.

His personal affront over a rejected loan propels Bicke (Sean Penn) to lash out the only way he knows how: plan to hijack a plane and fly it straight into the White House.  Mark real change by destroying the seat of government and changing the face of the American Way.

          Penn is not one to sidestep attitude.  As the perpetually disintegrating Bicke in Niels Mueller’s mildly tense and evocative mood piece, Penn recalls Taxi Driver’s infamous crackpot Travis Bickle with a pinch of Falling Down’s volatile William Foster thrown in for creeps.

Mueller plays it like a fever dream, an anarchic valentine to neurotic, misguided souls who can not and will not embrace defeat.  As a self-proclaimed “grain of sand on the beach called America” the hapless Bicke doesn’t stands a chance.

          Penn never strays from character, saturating Bicke’s modest soul with a brittle edge that’s ready to snap.  An air of bitter fatigue washes over all, from the deliberate, bordering-on-slow tempo to the inevitable breakdown. Determined to succeed but doomed to failure; ouch.