The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Critics Consensus

The Assassination of Richard Nixon struggles to convey deeper meaning, but a fascinating true story and compelling Sean Penn performance are worthy compensations.



Total Count: 132


Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,337
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Movie Info

The true story of a man who, on February 22, 1974, was thwarted from an ambitious plan for political assassination provides the basis for this striking psychological drama. Sam Bicke (Sean Penn) is a salesman for an office-supply company whose life is slowly beginning to unravel. Bicke's job is going nowhere, his wife, Marie (Naomi Watts), has left him, and his boss (Jack Thompson) keeps pushing self-help books on him that make a mockery of his state of mind. One of Bicke's few friends is Bonny Simmons (Don Cheadle), an auto mechanic, and together they come up with an idea for a tire shop on wheels; while neither has the money to finance the project, Bicke has learned of a program for small-business loans instituted by President Richard Nixon, which he's certain will come through for him. But Bicke is denied his loan, which dovetails with his increasing suspicion of the president's Vietnam policies and a sudden interest in the "by any means necessary" political activism of the Black Panther Party. Desperate to seem important in some way, Bicke becomes increasingly obsessed with the duplicity of Richard Nixon, until he chooses to take it upon himself to stop the president once and for all. The Assassination of Richard Nixon was the first feature film from director Niels Mueller.


Sean Penn
as Samuel Bicke
Naomi Watts
as Marie Bicke
Don Cheadle
as Bonny Simmons
Jack Thompson
as Jack Jones
Brad William Henke
as Martin Jones
Michael Wincott
as Julius Bicke
Mykelti Williamson
as Harold Mann
Nick Searcy
as Tom Ford
April Grace
as Mae Simmons
Lily Knight
as Receptionist
Jared Dorrance
as Sammy Jr.
Eileen Ryan
as Marie's Mother
Derek Greene
as Joey Simmons
Joe Marinelli
as Mel Samuels
Tracy Middendorf
as Businesswoman
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News & Interviews for The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Critic Reviews for The Assassination of Richard Nixon

All Critics (132) | Top Critics (34)

  • Sean Penn brings this obscure failure back to life in a vivid portrayal of a madman in the making, a madman who had a date with a gun and history.

    Feb 11, 2005 | Rating: 4/5
  • It's not just Nixon's shadow that hangs like a cloud over Assassination, it's the shadow of the bummerific era of American movies his regime spawned.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • The idea that assassins are products of their times is intriguing, but The Assassination of Richard Nixon is betrayed by its ambitions and pretensions.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • A well-made if relatively uninvolved character study with nothing noteworthy to say.

    Jan 21, 2005 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Assassination is an odd little movie. It's exceptionally well-done but doesn't attain the levels of meaning for which it seems to be striving.

    Jan 21, 2005 | Rating: C+
  • The always remarkable Penn infuses Sam Bicke with more originality than the plot allowed. Mueller took a real-life incident now lost in the history books and re-created a sympathetic back story for Bicke.

    Jan 21, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Assassination of Richard Nixon

  • Dec 03, 2013
    I think Penn's outstanding performance somewhat makes up for the film's problems . . . he makes it appear engaging where a lesser actor would have floundered with the vague screenplay. The filmmakers go out of their way to establish Bicke as an angry outsider but they never really find a way to connect that with his attempt to assassinate Nixon or the voice recordings he sent to Leonard Bernstein.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 30, 2013
    The Assassination of Richard Nixon has everything you could hope for in a quality film. An engaging story full of interesting characters, great acting, score and all that jazz, a great piece of work. The film is set in the 1970s and revolves around it's central character, Sam Bick, a man who can't hold down a job, and has problems connecting with people socially. The film follows Sam on his unrelenting course of bad luck that will eventually prove to be too much for him to take. Compared by many to Taxi Driver, the film perhaps has more in common with Falling Down, Sam always complains about being held down by "the system" and how "the little man" is mistreated and such, the film does very well with this topic, leaving it open as to whether Sam is letting it get to him too much, or if he really is being mistreated, certainly different viewpoints and multiple viewings could generate many different views on the film. Sean Penn as usual is an acting tour de force, I've often criticised him privately for taking what I'd called "Gunning for Ocsars roles" a role that involves a mental breakdown or a disability or suchlike covered in a dramatic manner, that usually guarantees an Oscar nomination. An actor solely concerned with winning trophies, I do sometimes wish he'd take a few more risks rather than sticking to the "oscar" formula. He could be accused of that again here, but to be honest, whatever his intentions with making such a film, if he puts in a good performance there can be no complaints, and here he is exceptional, never going over the top, it's easily one of his best performances and certainly, the character of Sam Bicke is one that any actor would relish and provides good subject matter for a very good film. 4 Stars 9-29-13
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 09, 2012
    Sean Penn delivers a brilliant portrayle of Sam Bicke. I found the film somewhat great and sad. Bicke reminded me of another movie character named Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver" and the picture is also errie in it's hiijacking plot that would later be evident of the September 11 attacks. The film shows archive footage of Nixon on television but Nixon is rarely important. Bicke is the main character so it's pretty much a character study of what it was like to live in his shoes...Bicke had a strong hatred of the society and the American system and then finally blaming all of his problems on Richard Nixon. He's going through a divorce, he wants to join and help the Black Panther Party, Bicke can't get a loan on a business he wants to start up, he's heading on a downward spiral that made me cringe and finally decides to end all of his problems by hiijacking an airliner and raming it right into the White House. For an independent picture it's great. Niels Mueller and his crew do a fine job of recreating the 70's period. I'm sure Mueller probably watched "Taxi Driver" before shooting this film because there are scenes where Penn's character Bicke echoes Bickle, even right down to straping his gun down to his leg. This picture is not for everybody but as a character study it's somewhat mesmerizing.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Jun 30, 2012
    Not an "entertaining" film to watch here, but Sean Penn's performance as a soul drowning in an avalanche of setbacks is as definite as the sound of a gunshot ... and as clearly recognizable. The rest of the cast compliments the drowning absolutely with apt portrayals of "please God, don't let it be me". Difficult to watch, as I said. Very true.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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