Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA/Mexico, 2004. Anhelo Productions, Appian Way, Esperanto Filmoj. Screenplay by Kevin Kennedy, Niels Mueller. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. Produced by Alfonso Cuaron, Jorge Vergara. Music by Steven M. Stern. Production Design by Lester Cohen. Costume Design by Aggie Guerard Rodgers. Film Editing by Jay Cassidy.
It’s 1974, and Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn) is sick and tired of not being respected. His ex-wife (Naomi Watts) treats him like he’s invisible, his boss (Jack Thompson) at the furniture store he works at puts ridiculous pressure on him to make sales, and the bank is stalling on whether or not they will allow him a loan to start a business of his own. Believing himself to be a man of principle in a world full of liars, Bicke’s solitude drives him to madness when he decides that president Nixon is the apex of modern hypocrisy and deserves to die. Stealing a gun from the workplace of his only true friend (Don Cheadle), Bicke walks into an airport and tries to hijack a plane that he plans on flying into the White House to kill the president. Based on a true story, this wearing vision of the American Dream turned sour wants so badly to be riveting but is only passably interesting and mostly just grim. Director Niels Mueller obsessively concentrates all the action on close-ups of Penn whining and mumbling, and while the actor is impressively good at portraying this man’s feelings of nothingness, the process of watching him play one note eventually becomes trite. We’re not convinced that Bicke is playing with a full deck of cards from the beginning of the story, so the character arc that leads to his final outcome is very slim and too predictable to be interesting. The rest of the time we’re forced to endure a retread of every shy-guy-gone-mad-movie cliché thanks to the unimaginative screenplay by Mueller and Kevin Kennedy, which somehow manages to make a ninety minute movie feel like it’s going on forever.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2004