Hollywood’s cinema of assssination, as inspired by the death of JFK, takes two different forms: conspiratorial and sociopathic. Both will be on display at a multiplex near you later this year if and when Tom Hanks’s “Parkland” and Leonardo di Caprio’s “Legacy of Secrecy” open. Hanks’s hospital drama will depict JFK as the victim of a lone sociopath while DiCaprio’s mob flick will likely finger Carlos Marcello and other organized crime bosses.
“Parkland’s” antecedents include “Nashville” and “Taxi Driver,” in which political assassinations are depicted as the work of disturbed and isolated individuals, although I somehow doubt that rookie director Peter Landesman, a former journalist prone to exaggeration, will infuse a film starring Zac Efron with the kind of dark vision that animates Robert Altman’s and Martin Scorcese’s films.
“Legacy of Secrecy” inherits the legacy of Oliver Stone’s conspiratorial epic, “JFK,” the oft-forgotten “Executive Action,” and my personal favorite, “The Parallax View,” Alan Pakula’s paranoid thriller of 1974. Arriving amidst the meltdown of the Nixon presidency in the various Watergate conspiracies, Pakula’s film is one of Hollywood’s harshest takes on JFK’s assassination, though its story does not concern Kennedy or Dallas.
Reporter Joe Frady, played by Warren Beatty, pursues the truth about the political assassination seen in the movie’s stunning first scene, only to find himself enmeshed in the hidden power centers of America. Frady’s naive idealism and the movie’s locked-in-the-tomb ending captured public disenchantment with the Warren Commission that had been building for a decade.
Pakula’s next movie was “All the President’s Men,” his Watergate drama about real-world reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s pursuit of Nixon. It had a happier ending.
(Note: While “Parkland” is in production and thus on schedule for November 2013, a release date for “Legacy of Secrecy” remains TBA, and perhaps MIA come the 50th anniversary.)