Seeing ‘based on true events’, or something similar, flash-up at the start of a film almost always rings alarm bells for me. This is especially the case with horror films. Facts are often distorted out of all recognition and the story is routinely ‘sexed-up’ or exaggerated out of all proportions. The events in Liza Johnson’s film, Elvis and Nixon, seem wildly implausible on the face of it. However, whilst there’s no actual record of their conversation, it actually sticks pretty close to the known facts.
Bored, fed up and concerned about the rising drug subculture, hippies and The Beatles, Elvis (Michael Shannon) decides to leave Graceland. He calls up his friends Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville) and tells them he needs to see Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey). He wants to serve his country again. Elvis feels the best way to do this would be for the president to swear him in as an undercover agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
Elvis and Nixon is a complete hoot. Both players remain cult figures and part of modern American folklore. The photo of their meeting is the most requested item from the US National Archive. The premise is so out there, as are the performances from Shannon and Spacey, that you can’t help loving every minute of it. The dialogue is entirely ludicrous, but this just adds to the entertainment. There’s a great supporting cast it smacks of a lot of actors having a lot of fun.
Elvis and Nixon is released on DVD by Entertainment One on Monday.