News for Apr. 26, 2005
DVD Tuesday: Watts' 'Assassination' & Bell's 'Undertow'
4/26/05, 9:31 pm EST - Xoanon
Sean Penn (looking rather Rupert Pupkin-like) is Samuel Bicke, whose life, circa 1974, has become unbearable. His wife (Naomi Watts) has left him, his dead-end sales job is killing him--even his best friend (Don Cheadle) has had enough. Bicke's a loser, but at least he's an honest one. Nixon, the epitome of dishonesty, becomes the locus of his rage, so Bicke devises a plan to eliminate him. Paul Schrader claims he finished writing Taxi Driver before the real-life Byck attempted to assassinate the president. Maybe so, but the similarities are hard to ignore (and "Bickle" sounds a lot like "Byck"). Niels Mueller (Tadpole) doesn't disguise the fact that his debut was inspired by the guy. If The Assassination of Richard Nixon doesn't hit Taxi Driver's (admittedly lofty) heights, it's still a discomfiting look at a man determined to leave his mark on the world, only to become a footnote. [Order 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' on Amazon.com Today!]
The dazed, dreamlike world of director David Gordon Green remains intact, although Undertow has more story than his previous gems (All the Real Girls, George Washington). In the hot, green Georgia countryside, a man (Dermot Mulroney) lives with his two sons on a farm; their existence is shattered by the arrival of the man's Faulknerian brother (Josh Lucas), a dangerous sort with an ulterior motive. The movie that follows is like The Night of the Hunter filtered through a Days of Heaven lens--there's even a Heaven-like narration provided by Jamie Bell. That's what you get for having Terrence Malick produce your movie. The plot doesn't always sit comfortably with Green's uncanny style--sometimes it feels like an intrusion on a private world of childhood--and Josh Lucas is "actory" in a way that most Green actors are not. Green is at his best when noticing some stray detail (the younger brother likes to arrange his books according to smell), not when connecting the dots of story. Still, the images will stick in your mind, Tim Orr's cinematography is superb, and Philip Glass provides a suitably mysterioso score. [Order 'Undertow' on Amazon.com Today!]