THE MAD STORY OF A TRUE MAN.
In the early 1970s, salesman Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn) hates what he does for a living and desperately tries to repair his failing marriage, but falls deeper into a mental abyss. Few actors in Hollywood can match Penn and it’s hard to see this film turn out as good without his spellbinding performance. With small means he lays a foundation for his character’s behavior early on and the transition into Bicke’s increasing irrationality is smooth and frightening; Penn’s face tends to say it all. The story is based on a real incident in 1974 and is tragic and true to the period… although it doesn’t quite pack a punch the way Taxi Driver did.
2004-U.S.-Mexico. 95 min. Color. Produced by Alfonso Cuarón, Jorge Vergara. Directed by Niels Mueller. Screenplay: Niels Mueller, Kevin Kennedy. Cast: Sean Penn (Samuel Bicke), Don Cheadle (Bonny Simmons), Jack Thompson (Jack Jones), Michael Wincott, Mykelti Williamson, Naomi Watts.
Trivia: Co-executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Alexander Payne. The story of the real-life Sam Byck was also told in the TV movie The Plot to Kill Nixon (2005).
Last word: “Sean’s, y’know, just a rare man of his word. And really became a friend and partner in making this film; it was tremendous. But it – the advantage of the financing falling apart is it gave us a chance to get to know each other, and we ended up doing the work leading up to the film without it being about doing the work. We’d get together, talk about the latest round of financing falling through, and have a drink, and we’d end up talking about the character, about the film. Not often in, y’know, like, as you’d imagine, sitting around and discussing motivation, etc., but just talking about the character freely. Without it being about the work was a way – it was a great advantage, y’know, because it just – it was very easy and just led us to the point where, when we started filming, that we were just in complete sync, and it built up this level of trust and just sort of were in complete sync on the character.” (Mueller, Groucho Reviews)