Interview with the Assassin
review by Dan Lybarger, 22 November 2002

The makers of Interview with the Assassin have managed to pull off a feat that would make the Blair Witch or even the pilot of a black helicopter envious. Dealing with a modest production, little onscreen violence and a seemingly timeworn subject (the JFK assassination), writer-director Neil Burger delivers more than his quota of jolts. Whereas Oliver Stone's conspiracy thriller JFK was long, intricate, star-studded and visually flashy, Interview with the Assassin draws its considerable power from simplicity. You can count the number of characters on your hands, and all are played by experienced but little-known actors. Because the performers aren't immediately recognizable, Burger's mockumentary setup is convincing and tough to predict.

The footage we are watching is supposed to have been shot in 2000 by Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty), a downsized news cameraman who believes he has discovered a potential story that could not only restore his fortunes but possibly make him another Bob Woodward. His neighbor, Walter Ohlinger (Raymond J Barry), has made a confession. After berating Ron for his underdeveloped interviewing skills, he announces that he's dying of cancer and that he was the second gunman on the grassy knoll, the fellow who fired the "magic bullet" that killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Even if the Warren Commission's lone shooter conclusion is false, Walter might as well say he's the tooth fairy because nearly forty years have passed and conspiracy theories (both crackpot and scholarly) are divergent and plentiful. Still, Walter has saved a shell casing that was fired roughly around the date of the killing, knows his way around Dealey Plaza and is clearly mean enough to have committed the crime.

Verifying Walter's assertion proves nightmarish because he only identifies a single co-conspirator, a fellow ex-Marine named John Seymour, who may not be willing to talk even if he does exist. The most compelling proof seems to be that the two are being followed wherever they go. Even without the mysterious car behind them, Walter is dangerous on his own. He can sneak onto planes with pistols and has great difficulty with the word "no."

The pseudo-documentary approach makes Interview with the Assassin a good deal eerier because in rarely feels forced or histrionic. Barry and Haggerty don't even seem to be acting.  Barry oozes menace and guilt. In later scenes, he even looks more volatile when he's dressed up. Without uttering a line, he effortlessly conveys Walter's emotional descent. Haggerty's role isn't as showing, but it's remarkable when you consider that he has to carry a good deal of the film with only his voice. Because Ron is supposed to be running the camera, he's only seen through reflections unit the end of the movie.

The Digital Video photography by Richard Rutkowski (Chelsea Walls) gives Interview with the Assassin an appropriate grit and urgency. The handheld camerawork looks reasonably spontaneous without being jerky. The DV images are remarkably clear and aren't as grainy-looking as some digital flicks can get. Interview with the Assassin wastes little of its brisk eighty-six-minute running time. After a while, it becomes difficult to decide who is scarier:  Walter, or the shadowy, faceless people behind him.

Written and
Directed by:

Neil Burger

Starring:
Raymond J. Barry
Dylan Haggerty
Renee Faia
Kelsey Kemper
Dennis Lau
Jared McVay
Christel Khalil
Lillias White
Kate Williamson
Jack Tate
Nicolas Mize
Jim Hiser
Darrell Sandeen
Evan O'Meara
Robert Samuel Thompson
Jimmy Burke
Mike Wood

Rating:
NR- Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated
.

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