The Assassination of Richard Nixon
|The Assassination of Richard Nixon|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Niels Mueller|
|Produced by||Alfonso Cuarón
|Written by||Niels Mueller
Brad William Henke
|Music by||Steven M. Stern|
|Editing by||Jay Cassidy|
|Release date(s)||December 29, 2004|
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Country||United States / Mexico|
The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a 2004 American film, directed by Niels Mueller. It stars Sean Penn, Don Cheadle and Naomi Watts, and is based on the story of would-be assassin Samuel Byck, who plotted to kill Richard Nixon in 1974. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
The main characters are:
- Samuel J. Bicke (Penn) – a salesman with a history of short-lived jobs. His name was changed in the film to avoid offending living relatives.
- Marie Andersen Bicke (Watts) – Bicke's ex-wife.
- Bonny Simmons (Cheadle) – Bicke's best friend and potential business partner.
Samuel Bicke is portrayed as an individual who wants the world to function according to honor and merit, yet he's often paranoid and dishonest, and he gets flustered and angry when things don't go according to his plans. He clearly wants to reconcile with his estranged wife Marie but cannot accept that she's moved on without him. He states that he stopped working for his brother because he perceives that his brother forced him to lie in his job, yet he lies about his marital status to get employment. He attempts to join the Black Panthers, as he believes that discrimination affects poor white people just as much as it does blacks, but his explanations for that fact don't impress the local Panther leadership.
While out drinking with his new employer at an office furniture sales office, the employer describes Richard Nixon as the greatest salesman in history, because his election promise in 1968 was to exit the Vietnam War, yet he massively increased troop numbers and won an easy re-election in 1972 on a promise of ending the same war. His employer is condescending towards him and gives him patronizing advice, while his lack of social skills and scattershot morality make him an abysmal salesman.
Throughout the film he becomes increasingly disillusioned with friends, family, his status in society, the lot of the those who are employed and his job in particular. He decides to set up a mobile tire sales business so that he will no longer be employed by others, and applies for a government loan to set up the business.
Bicke then suffers several setbacks in short succession. His sales figures continue to deteriorate, and during a clumsy attempt to flirt with a female customer he reveals that, despite what he has told his employer, he is in fact separated, which his colleague hears and passes on to the boss. He then desperately tries to get Marie to join him for a company event, but she refuses to keep up a "charade" and asks him why he needs her there if his sales are as good as he has told her about. He then gets a letter from Marie saying she has filed for divorce, and when he reaches her by telephone she tells him to get a life and hangs up on him, leaving him to weep in despair. Shortly afterwards, he deliberately tanks a sale and quits, with his boss seeming relieved that he'll be gone, and begins ranting when he sees President Nixon giving a speech on TV, repeatedly screaming "It's about MONEY, DICK!!!". He decides that as he is certain to receive his loan he can order his tires now and start the business, and breaks into his brother's tire sales business to make a large order, to be delivered to his best friend and prospective business partner, Bonny.
However, the loan is rejected and Bicke comes home one night to find a notice on his door that his rent is past due, and his brother, Julius, waiting in his flat. Julius reveals that the vendor became suspicious and contacted police, and Bonny was arrested for receiving stolen goods, which Bicke pathetically tries to say is due to racism against the African-American Bonny. Julius has bailed Bonny out and smoothed things over with the police, but says that he wants nothing more to do with Bicke, and will have him arrested if he ever does anything similar. With nothing and no one left in his life that he cares about, Bicke begins obsessing about Nixon. One night, after he watches a news story about a helicopter pilot who did a fly-by around the White House and got arrested, he begins putting together a plan to hijack a passenger airliner himself and crash it into the White House.
Bicke closes his bank account, steals a gun from Bonny which he conceals on his leg, heads to a restaurant where his old boss and colleague are dining. He sarcastically thanks the boss for showing him that being a good man and a good salesperson aren't the same thing, and aims the gun at him under the table, but can't bring himself to pull the trigger and flees. He goes to his and Marie's old house; he sleeps in the deserted, mostly barren home before he shoots and kills the family dog. The next morning, he goes to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. He buys a ticket and waits in line to board his flight. Seeing the security procedures, he has a last minute change of plan and rushes on board the airplane, shooting indiscriminately as he goes.
Once on board he seems to have little idea of what he is doing. He shoots one pilot in the head and the other in the shoulder, and finds a passenger to act as co-pilot. However, he is shot through the window in the plane's door. While the authorities close in on the plane, he commits suicide. The day's events are shown on TV, but as the film ends, his ex-wife and former best friend have no reaction to the mention of Bicke's name. Bicke then runs around his apartment with a toy plane and heads straight into the camera as the screen cuts to black. The film ends with a title card that says even if Bicke had succeeded at hijacking the plane, his plan would have failed because Nixon wasn't in the White House that day.
It holds a rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. Empire gave the film four stars out of five stating, "it's great to see the courage of '70s Hollywood meeting the conviction of 21st-century indie cinema in this stark, bold drama."
See also 
- "Festival de Cannes: The Assassination of Richard Nixon". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-11-30.