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Magnolia presents
Interview with the Assassin (2002)

"I was in Dallas, November 22, 1963. Does that mean anything to you? I've never told anyone this before: no one knows I was the second gunman behind the stockade fence on what they've called the grassy knoll. I fired one shot from there."
- Warren Ohlinger (Raymond J. Berry)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 05, 2003

Stars: Raymond J. Barry, Dylan Haggerty
Other Stars: Renee Faia, Kelsey Kemper, Dennis Lau, Jared McVay, Darrell Sandeen
Director: Neil Burger

MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:22m:58s
Release Date: June 17, 2003
UPC: 758445400625
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas 1963 stills stands, forty years after the fact, as a seething hotbed of conspiratorial speculation. It's not enough that an American president was gunned down in public, but the fact that the identity of the killer or killers has never been proven concretely, has given rise to a heady labyrinth of possible gunmen and the shadowy people behind it. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone? What about the alleged second gunman behind the grassy knoll?

Writer/director Neil Burger has created an entry in the fake documentary genre with Interview with the Assassin, a taut, prickly conspiracy thriller that finds an unemployed television cameraman named Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty) taking in the confession of a neighbor who claims to have been the "grassy knoll" gunman whot fired the fatal head shot that killed Kennedy. The neighbor is grizzled former Marine Warren Ohlinger (Raymond J. Berry), who claims to be dying of cancer, and wants to tell the story of what really happened that day in Dallas. Recognizing the story of a lifetime, Kobeleski is quickly drawn into Ohlinger's contagious paranoid world, where it isn't long before shadows in the back yard and strange cars seem to be harbingers of menace.

Are their fears genuine? Is Ohlinger insane? Or are the powers-that-be behind the murder of an American president looking to permanently silence Kobeleski and Ohlinger?

The shaky hand-held camera documentary approach employed by Burger, which gives rise to the inevitable Blair Witch Project comparisons, works as well here as it did in Myrick and Sanchez's film. There is a chaotic sense of unrehearsed frenzy (though liner notes reveal the film was carefully scripted), and the long chunks of dialogue that flow from Ohlinger roll off with the cadence of most real-life conversations. The riveting sequence where Kobeleski follows Ohlinger as he narrates and retraces the steps he took through downtown Dallas that day in 1963, complete with a stop at the now familiar stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, is an absolutely chilling moment in a film that has many such scenes.

Like the real-life conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination (if you choose to believe that Oswald did not act alone), Burger's story becomes a twisty is-he-or-isn't-he game. As the two lead characters, outcasts in their own ways, search for the mysterious John Seymour, a man who can ultimately prove Ohlinger's story, it eventually and fatally cements their relationship together.

Interview with the Assassin runs a breezy 85 minutes, and the film really unfolds quickly as the seemingly unstructured "documentary" unravels rapidly into a dark, paranoid thriller that is clever enough to never reveal its secrets too soon.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The DVD case states this is presented in 2.35:1, but it appears to actually be 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The whole film has an intentionally rough, low-rent look to it, to reflect the supposed spontaneous hand-held feel of a documentary-in-the-making. Clarity of image detail and depth of colors tend to fluctuate from scene to scene, adding realism to the presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is 2.0 mono, and like the fake documentary video, it is appropriately rough. But not in a necessarily bad way as it compliments the visual presentation well, with that sense of actual on-the-spot recording, with all of its occasional imperfections. Most importantly, though, is that the essential dialogue remains clear, with no underlying hiss or crackle.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Neil Burger
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Details of suspicious deaths surrounding the Kennedy assassination
Extras Review: The full-length, scene-specific commentary from writer/director Neil Burger was a bit of a letdown, and quickly digresses largely into a simple reiteration of what is occurring onscreen. Burger reveals some location information, and chats about how he chose the actors, but much of the content is lackluster.

Also included is a theatrical trailer, production notes and a brief (text) look at details of some suspicious deaths surrounding the Kennedy assassination. The disc is cut into 12 chapters, and does feature any subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The fake documentary approach is ideal for the subject matter, with a story that will stir the paranoid cockles of every JFK conspiracy buff. Raymond J. Berry is just plain spooky as the unrepentant second gunman (or is he?), and the Blair Witch-style shaky camera work only adds to the air of jittery realism.



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