.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Jack Thompson, Don Cheadle, Brad Henke

Directed by Niels Mueller
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
January 6, 2005

True story: six months before Richard Nixon resigned, in 1974, screw-up husband, father and salesman Samuel Byck tried to take him out, in a prescient 9/11 scenario, by hijacking a jet and crashing it into the White House.

Byck failed but died trying. This prototypical little-guy loser felt betrayed by his family, his job and his country. He viewed Tricky Dick as the symbol of his torment. First-time director and co-writer Niels Mueller saw Byck (called Bicke to allow for fictional finagling) as a means to investigate the psychological underpinings of the American dreamer betrayed. It's a fierce and noble quest that Mueller doesn't quite pull off.

No matter. The reliably brilliant Sean Penn does. Penn gets the look right (the mustache, the polyester suits) and the halting speech. But the beauty of this astonishing performance, a worthy follow-up to his Oscar role in Mystic River, is the way Penn finds the loneliness that isolates Bicke from his waitress wife (Naomi Watts), his friend (Don Cheadle), his boss (Jack Thompson), his brother (a superb Michael Wincott) and, ultimately, the world. It isn't easy to watch Bicke deteriorate into madness — this riveting film qualifies as the anti-crowd-pleaser — but Penn makes it unthinkable to turn away.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com