Genre: Drama
Director: Niels Mueller
Starring: Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Naomi Watts
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16

Release Date: 14 April 2005

Synopsis :

In the winter of 1974, a time of great political unrest, Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn) is a forty-four-year-old man who wants to believe in something – anything. But at every turn, his faith -- in himself and in the world around him -- is undermined. He is separated from his wife, Marie (Naomi Watts), who refuses to consider the reconciliation he wants so desperately. He is estranged from his brother Julius (Michael Wincott), a businessman whose success mocks Bicke’s constant string of professional failures. And, with his personal life in such disarray, he is also struggling to hold onto yet another job for which he is fundamentally unfit. An idealist who detests lying in any form, Bicke is miserable working as a salesman in an office supply company, a position that routinely requires him to be insincere, opportunistic, and deceitful.

The only bright spot in Bicke’s life is his dream of opening a door-to-door tire repair service with his auto mechanic friend, Bonny (Don Cheadle). Their business proposal requires a modest bank loan. Bicke applies and nervously waits the requisite period for the loan application to be processed. He is on edge the whole time because the outcome -- his only chance at a meaningful future -- is so important to him. As his anxiety mounts, Bicke begins to fall apart, and in his vulnerable state, sees injustice and hypocrisy everywhere. He thinks it is wrong that Marie, who works at a bar to support their three children, has to wear short skirts to get bigger tips. Or, that Bonny’s customers at the garage get away with being abusive just because he is black.

Bicke would like to strike out at all the offenders, but there are too many dragons to slay. However, there is one villain who looms large. For Bicke, Richard Nixon, described by Bicke’s boss (Jack Thompson) as the greatest salesman in history because he swindled the American people twice, becomes the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the world.

When Bicke experiences a series of ill-fated events -- his loan is rejected, his ex-wife and his brother abandon him, and his dreams of starting his own business die unrealized -- he decides the only way to reclaim his insignificant life is to carry out a grand, historic gesture that will make his presence felt. At this point, dreams give way to delusions. A new Samuel Bicke, uncharacteristically resolute and resourceful, sets out on a chilling crusade to right the world’s wrongs. He has an appointment with history.

Movie Review:

The acquisition of great wealth and success is possible provided that you believes that you have the talent, intelligence, and an enourmous willingness to work extremely hard. This were the fundamental concept of the American Dream, which has always been a much debatable subject. Some had criticised that the American dream is misleading since not everyone is
capable of becoming prosperous through beliefs and hard work, making those unsuccessful bearing the poor feeling that their failures is due to their laziness and intelligence. For these individual, who was incongruous to the American dream, the route to dreamland may be the way towards insanity!

This is true for someone like Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn), a nervous and unsure furniture salesman who were reluctant to the gradual break up of his marriage. Samuel tried desperately to succeed at his workplace in the bid to win back his family. However, reality is cruel to dreamers. His world soon tumbles in a time of political unrest and racial segregation. Devastated and disillusioned, he starts to believe that the person responsible for his and all American’s plight is the “Greatest salesman of America”, Richard Nixon, the 37th President of America. He decided that someone has to make the famous wake up their idea. Taking “justice” in his own hands, he soon develops and put into action the plot to assassinate Nixon.

No, Nixon was not assassinated by him. For those who knew some American Politics, Richard Nixon had resigned mainly due to the Watergate scandal in Aug 1974, making him the first American President to do so. Although, the movie title may suggest a political genre, but you do not expect much talk about politics in the movie, neither do you expect to see some Hollywood
style car chasing and guns tattering scenes between FBI agents and the assassinator. What’s left is a sad tale of a man trying hard to keep afloat of the Amercian dream while every life difficult events seem to adore him, forcing him to take a suicide route as a relieve of his circumstances.

There could not have been another best candidate than Sean Penn for the role of Samuel J. Picke. It is an ultimate enjoyment watching him executing the role. It would be pathetic to put into words, the brilliant of Sean Penn, who is undisputable, the finest actor alive in Hollywood now.

Sean Penn aside, the movie was, unfortunately, very much predictable, all thanks to the movie title (what else to expect from the movie except “The assassination of Richard Nixon”?). The movie touches little on anything else except the route that Samuel took to assassinate Nixon. As a result, even the runtime of merely 90 minutes seem too long. The filmmaker's way of telling
the story “backward” from the end to the beginning of how things happen does not surprise the audience since many other movies nowadays used such techniques. Finally, the building up of Samuel’s reasons on his assassination on Nixon is insufficient to gain any empathy from most Singaporeans, who has been enjoying political and racial stability on a land with zero assassination attempts on political figures.

Movie Rating: C+

Review by Leosen Teo

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