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Nick is desperate, holed up in a cheap hotel, suffering from an ulcer and convinced that a local mobster wants him killed. He calls Mikey, his friend since childhood, but when Mikey arrives, Nick won't let him in: his moods swing. So begins a long night as Mike tries to take care of Nick, calm him down and get him out of town. Their sojourn - on foot and in a city bus - takes them to a bar, a club, toward a movie theater, to the cemetery where Nick's mom is buried, and to Nick's girlfriend's apartment. Tempers fray and the friendship is tested. Meanwhile, a hit man who's getting information from someone is indeed looking for Nick. Written by
A list of best films-you-didn't see from the seventies and eighties could not be complete without a host of John Cassavetes films: THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (1976 - given thumbs down on release, lauded as a classic now), and LOVE STREAMS (1984) are just two overlooked gems. Likewise, the only reason you can make for anybody not seeing MIKEY AND NICKY (Cassavetes starred, but didn't write/direct) is that nobody heard of it.
I assume you have one of two reasons for reading this review. Either (a) you love the film and are looking for like-minded opinion; or (b) you stumbled upon it accidentally, in which case I shall put it as simple as possible: you gotta see it.
Mikey (John Cassavetes) sits in a shoebox hotel room, a price now on his head, scared stiff. In desperation he calls his gangster childhood pal Nicky (Peter Falk) to help him get out of town.
A synopsis doesn't cover the density of the film. Two fragile male egos rebound off each other as the leads recall just why they love and hate each other so much. I cannot think of a better casting move than coupling Cassavetes and Falk. Good friends in real life, and frequent collaborators, they bring an intimacy to the film rarely seen elsewhere.
Within the first half-hour it dawns on the audience that engrossing as the story is, the outcome is not the most important aspect. Director Elaine May draws strength from the honesty of the characters. Her handling is at once compassionate and even-handed. The result: the characters are likeable for all their flaws.
It resonates more and more every time you watch it, enough for me personally to consider it will be a major influence on anything I might have the chance to film in the future.
The passing of Cassavetes was heartbreaking, the casual neglect of his output just as much so. If you don't know much about the man who took Scorsese under his wing, take the time today to investigate. Elaine May went on to make ISHTAR. Sadly, she hasn't directed since.
MIKEY AND NICKY is one of the greatest American films ever made.
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