The Assassination of Richard Nixon

This is easily one of the best films of the last year. Sean Penn is stunning as Samuel Bicke, a man who uses Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking as an assassin’s manual. Shot and directed in a manner most reminiscent of John Cassavetes' work, Assassination puts Penn in the role Gena Rowlands usually played. He’s a man just on the edge of sanity who watches as his country indulges in racism, class warfare and random acts of evil. In response to the breakup of his marriage and the quotidian horrors of working as an office furniture salesman, he begins to write long, rambling letters to Leonard Bernstein, seeing in his music one of the last sources of purity in the degraded nation. Ultimately, his addled mind focuses on Richard Nixon, the great salesman, as the point at which he must strike in order to justify his existence. An unbelievably natural and painful performance by Penn is superbly supported by Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Michael Wincott and Jack Thompson. Unforgettable and viscerally intense, Assassination marks director Niels Mueller as the true heir to the great America filmmakers of the ’70s.

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