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One of the most overlooked films of last year; The Assassination of Richard Nixon stars the always brilliant Sean Penn in the lead as a man who was driven to madness. His job is demeaning, his family are drifting away from him, and all Sam Bicke wants to do is to realize his dreams in a country that is now consumed by the Vietnam War and corrupt politics. When things get really bad for him, he decides that the man to blame for all his pain is the President of the United States of America himself – Richard Nixon. When Sam sees a helicopter landing on the White House grounds on television one day, he quickly conjures a plan; he will hijack a plane, and drop a bomb on the White House.

Assassination of Richard Nixon, The
Film
The Assassination of Richard Nixon isn’t an easy film to watch. There are many dramatic and sometimes painful images in the film, and Sean Penn plays this real-life character with so much passion and fire that it is scandalous he missed out at the Academy Awards. Just watching Penn’s character transform so wildly from one extreme to the other is in itself a harsh and almost brutal castigation. Elsewhere, performances are top notch across the board, not least from Naomi Watts. And first time feature film director Niels Mueller also demonstrates such a knack for exceptional dramatic presentation that it wouldn’t surprise me if he one day goes on to nab a few of those time-honoured golden statuettes. The Assassination of Richard Nixon comes highly recommended.

Video
The transfer for this film is gritty, raw and very cold – just the way it was intended. Noise levels are quite bad, but they are obviously in place for dramatic effect and mood. Colours are also pretty washed out and over saturated, but again this is the mood of the film and not merely flaws. Outside of artistic vision however, the transfer is accurate, sharp and highly detailed.

Assassination of Richard Nixon, The
Audio
Being a sulky drama, there aren’t many uses of LFE and all of the lower end subwoofer sounds, but fear not – the dialogue is the main focus and it is gorgeous. It has a very rich, crisp accent where every spoken word is highly audible and detailed. More of less everything else is handled very well by the Dolby Digital 5.1 score too, not least the great musical score with its mellow piano solos and rousing classical tones.

Extras
Director Niels Mueller provides a truly great audio commentary here, and one of the best I have heard all year in fact. I always find it interesting to hear from a first time director, and his was one of the best since Sam Mendes’ American Beauty commentary.

The behind the scenes documentary runs for ten minutes and gives only the briefest glance into the production of the film. Despite its length, it was still quite good and better than most features of this type and length. Next we have a deleted scene reel with optional audio commentary.

There are also a handful of theatrical trailers and TV Spots on the same menu screen. And lastly, there is a text-based press conference from Sean Penn, as well as a picture gallery, cast and crew biographies and a profile on the real Sam Bicke.

Assassination of Richard Nixon, The
Overall
The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a great and highly overlooked film. It failed to gross even a million dollars in the US, but here is a film that deserved to be seen by a much larger audience. I am confident that, due to good word of mouth and such, this film will have the chance to shine on DVD, and perhaps seek the success it deserved. The DVD is mostly decent, with good audio and video, though the extras are lacking. Still, I highly recommend this DVD for just the film; it is a cult classic if ever there was one.


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