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Interview With The Assassin

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Interview With The Assassin

Starring: Raymond J. Barry, Dylan Haggerty
Director: Neil Burger
Rated: NR
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genre: Drama

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Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

The question, "Where were you when the Towers were hit" has supplanted the query, "Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated, yet the latter conversation piece may prove to be the more lasting one. Of the major events during the past 90 years: the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which led to World War I; the bombing of Hiroshima which changed the nature of major-power diplomacy; the murder of President Kennedy, which led to a protracted period of investigations on its motive and nature of the crime; and the disaster at Twin Towers, which was the first assault by a foreign enemy on one of the fifty states since 1815 the Kennedy tragedy lingers largely because many Americans and possibly most Europeans disbelieve the Warren Commission Report that a lone individual, and not a conspiracy, was involved.

Neil Burger's low-budget "Interview with the Assassin," which looks like a documentary feature and is probably designed to emulate talking-heads yarns, is pure fiction but has the ring of emotional truth to those who reject the idea that the investigation is closed. Though not really purporting to support the conspiracy theory, Burger suggests that in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald, a handful of others who were not politically motivated had a hand in firing the fatal shot to the ex-president's head, the one that actually killed him. Resembling in large part the template of "The Blair Witch Project," which for reasons unknown to me became a major hit and a breakthrough in cinematic treatment of the horror theme, "Interview" focuses primarily on two performers; Raymond J. Barry in the role of the 62-year-old Walter Ohlinger, and Dylan Haggerty, who acts the part of news photographer Ron Kobeleski.

When Kobeleski in called over by his California neighbor because he wanted to make a confession before his expected death from cancer in about six months, the photographer is at first shocked, and then drawn into the older man's tale, particularly since Walter sounds convincing enough and emphatically states that he has proof that he first the second shot while standing behind a fence at the grassy knoll near the Dallas book storage building. Accompanying Walter to Dallas, Ron watches Walter recreate the shooting, signs up for a couple of guns for his new friend who fears being killed by those who'd be privy to the confession, and ends up in Washington, DC. where a surprise is in store for the interviewer.

Neil Burger confirms that while his script appears improvised, it is in fact tightly written and that he put a hundred actors through an audition for the lead role before he found the man who would strike the right note. What Burger was obviously looking for was a guy who could project to the photographer and to the movie audience the ambiguity: is Walter a mentally unstable fellow looking for notoriety before he dies (if indeed he has cancer at all), or is he actually the perpetrator who could prove the Warren Commission to be seriously flawed?

The film, however, is so Blair-ish, so lacking in drama, that it looks like something that might be shown on cable during the wee hours of the morning. The night scenes are dark, shown through what looks like a laser-equipped instrument that could detect movement in the dark while not calling attention to itself. Raymond J. Barry, who has appeared in several major films like "Dead Man Walking" and "Unmarried Woman," does convey the ambiguity that will have the audience leaving the theater discussing the veracity of his claims, but "Interview" is the sort of work better seen on TV than on the big screen.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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