Directed by Niels Mueller, starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson and Michael Wincott.

For Sam Bicke (Penn), the American Dream has curdled. His marriage to Marie (Watts) is over and he can't see his children as often as he would like. His plan for a mobile tyre replacement business with friend Bonny (Cheadle) can't get off the ground because no-one will back them. To make ends meet he has to work in the office furniture showrooms of the unctuous Jack Jones (Thompson) and, basically, Bicke's too honest and timid for the job. As the worries and bills mount up, Sam's sanity begins to ebb away and he finds one man to direct all his rage and frustration towards.

Based on real-life events in 1974, 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon's performances can't be faulted, but it is still a disappointment. Rewinding two weeks and then a year to show Bicke's unbuckling, at times the film is painfully slow and gives the feeling that Penn is saying the same thing over and over again. When it's good it's utterly compelling, when it's average you'll look at your watch as often as someone who's giving Bicke an interview.

For 'The Assassination of Richard Nixon' to work properly, it needed more scenes between Penn and the underused Watts. In a film which should be all about finding yourself moved by one man's downward spiral, you never warm to Bicke, maintaining the air of an at best curious observer and at worst a detached onlooker.

The film's points about 'me' culture and consumerism are powerful, and for Bicke's encounter with The Black Panthers ("become The Zebras and membership will double") it's worth the ticket price alone, but by the close you're convinced that there should have been more to the film than what ended up onscreen. However, if you're looking for a trip back to the atmosphere of 1970s cinema, look no further.

Harry Guerin