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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
starred, but didn't write/direct) is that nobody heard of
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.
This totally underrated classic (in my Top 10 of all time) directed by
Elaine May a few years before it's release is unbelievably gritty and a sad
comment on the "American Dream" even for small-time mobsters. John
Cassavetes was never better as Nick, a paranoid, intelligent, and
street-wise guy. Peter Falk is equally impressive as his friend Mike who
has problems of his own. This was probably the best Cassavetes-like film
that he DIDN'T direct, but very similar to his style.
A 10 out of 10. Best performance = John Cassavetes. a one-night (dusk to dawn) film that will grab you and never let go. Ned Beatty has an amusing supporting role, along with Sanford Meisner & William Hickey (well-known acting teachers). This movie never had a chance at the box office, but is now highly regarded in all circles. Don't miss it!
People give respect to give respect to Scorsese's "Casino", to "Taxi Driver", to "Mean Streets", they give respect to "The Godfather" and a whole slew of gritty organized crime movies. But I've never heard a single mention of this movie. Thankfully, people have been coming slowly around to Cassavetes-directed movies, but seldom, if ever, have I heard anyone compliment this movie for which Cassavetes is only credited for his acting. The silence regarding this movie is ridiculous, because of how great this movie is. It's so pure, it's so rough, it makes "Mean Streets" look big budget. The director, the comic-timing pro Elaine May, is a genius to let the actors do their thing, because they are legendary actors and to get too involved would ruin the chemistry. I think it's wise to go into this movie without knowing too much except maybe the names of the two leads and the director, and that the whole production is amazing without being perfect.
The combination of Cassavettes, Falk and May cannot be beat. Scenes go on for ten to fifteen minutes long, but the dialogue is so smart and the acting so excellent that the film breezes by. Some of the best writing ever, and Falk is one of our greatest American actors. Hilarious scenes on the bus and in a graveyard are unforgettable. And Falk's nickname, "The Echo" is priceless. Must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the movie that proves that you don't need script supervision,
competent editing or a decent gaffer. All you need in order to make a
movie is well-drawn characters and great casting.
Over the course of this film there are several awkward jump cuts, poor lighting, at least one instance of "jumping the line," inexplicable blackouts and a brief view of the sound guy in the hotel mirror when Falk and Cassavetes are supposed to be alone.
But who cares? The whole cast is brilliant -- from Falk and Cassavetes to M. Emmett Walsh as a harassed bus driver, Ned Beatty as a sad-sack hitman and New York acting gurus Sanford Meisner and Bill Hickey (later so brilliant in PRIZZI'S HONOR) as the crime bosses -- and the relationship of the two central characters, childhood friends turned into gangsters and arriving at an eventual point of betrayal, is dead-on as old hurts surface and paranoia and anger are bound up with love.
The women -- a mistress who puts on airs and two wives struggling to live normal lives with their petty criminal husbands -- also have excellent scenes to play. And there are dozens of excellent small roles. The candy store owner who keeps his hand on his gun, the jealous guy in the Black bar and the diner worker who refuses to give away creams unless Falk buys coffees to go with them all add small beautiful strokes to the overall canvas.
The final moment -- Falk's scream of pain as Cassavetes is shot -- registers in a truly emotional way, free of the sentimentality that ends most such "buddie" pictures.
Viewers familiar with John Cassavetes' directing style will see his influence in this film, but Elaine May wrote and directed it. It is an engaging, highly unusual drama about two childhood pals mixed up with the mob. Don't expect Martin Scorsese or Francis Coppola glitz here---this movie is different. There is a real, uncinematic edge to it. It almost plays like a documentary, or a "reality movie." And the actors--Falk and Cassevetes were good friends and frequently worked together--allow for unique male-bonding (and a dissection of the male sex) that rarely occurs in modern film (another characteristic of a Cassavetes-directed film). Women are basically throwaway characters in many of his films, and that is the case here. This movie will either be an endurance test for audiences, or a fascinating experience. It was the latter for me.
My reason for wanting to see this film was because Rueben Greene (from the film "The Boys In The Band" ) was in it. Boy, was I in for a treat. This film starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk with Ned Beatty is a serious crime drama with a touch of gangster crime in it. May have been one of those films you saw years ago on a late night local independent tv station during a rainy night. This New York style/late-night feel film is played straight without the cheesy music in the background. Every sound you hear is real, the dialing of a rotary phone, footsteps, background chatter, the street, is all authentic as filmed. This is a good 1970's film. Wonderfully written and directed by Elaine May, who you may remember acting with Walter Matthau in the films "A New Leaf" (1971) and "California Suite" (1978). Adults Only.
There's nothing wrong with a film being low-key, as a sense of subtlety
can force the viewers to draw their own inferences from the story and
ultimately walk away more affected, with both the films of John
Cassavetes and Robert Altman being prime examples. However, sometimes a
film can be too low-key and nuanced that it never particularly involves
the audience. "Mikey and Nicky" unfortunately did that for me. Director
Elaine May never seems able to decide exactly what she wants the film
to be, with it's tone often wavering between quirky character study,
buddy comedy, and crime thriller. All this would be fine, but
unfortunately the two title characters are never particularly likable.
Both of them are considerably misogynistic (oddly enough for a film
from a female director) and entirely at fault for the situations
present, with Nicky being rather psychotic. The film does have some
interesting points to make on the subjects of loyalty, but none of the
characters remain truthful to one another.
Still, the film remains watchable for several reasons. It's definitely an interesting failure, as May tried, no matter how muddled the result, to craft something intelligent and different, so that should be respected no matter what. Unfortunately, as a director she seems far too derivative of Cassavetes, who stars. The main thing "Mikey and Nicky" has going for it is some great acting. Peter Falk and Cassavetes were both always compelling if often underrated leading men, and the supporting cast has some interesting choices (from Ned Beatty to William Hickey to Joyce Van Patten and even a young M. Emmet Walsh), even if they're often given little to do. Unfortunately, the film in the end lacks any real impact, making the whole venture seem rather pointless. (6/10)
A great film! Though I have yet to see any of Elaine May's other films, I find that this one quickly puts her on an eccentric list of directors. Anyone who's a Casavettes (or Falk) fan must see. A nice tight character driven study. Oddly enough; might be grouped with Wings Of Desire (Wenders) and Requiem For A Dream (Aronofsky); though without the mystical elements. In fact, anyone who appreciates Aronofsky (PI, Requiem, etc.) might find this rather satisfying. Understood there were continuity glitches, but found these to be rather endearing; though I'm unsure whether May intended these to be illustrative of certain a character mindset or not. If this were the case I could also see a certain brief parallel to Momento (Nolan), which also brings in Insomnia. If any of these references ring a pleasant bell, find this film; it's worth it.
Dark, gritty and brilliant underrated/underseen buddy film. It's heart-string-tugging sensibility comes from the fact that it was written and directed by a woman (Elaine May), though in a near-perfect (and doubtlessly intentional) simulation of Cassavete's style. Falk & Cassavetes at the top of their respective & collaborative games.
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