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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Heartfelt, non-righteous, ironically funny look at skid-row life in Los Angeles.

10/10
Author: anonymous from New York City
20 June 1999

On The Nickle is a thoroughly forgotten film which I was lucky enough to tape from the "Z Channel" (now defunct) in Los Angeles many years ago. The brainchild of actor Ralph Waite (of Waltons), it was independently made on a very low budget. In it, Waite manages to balance the tragedy of skid-row life with humor and irony, and in spite of an easy, fellini-esque ending, tells a moving story of a man (Donald Moffat) a former alcoholic and skid row dweller, struggling to "put his demons to rest" as he searches the "Nickle" (Fifth Street) for his old pal, C.G., played by Ralph Waite. The movie is bookended by the Tom Waits song, "On The Nickle", presumably written for the movie, and has a score that quotes the song frequently. Maybe the Independent Film Channel will consider running it.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An honorable glimpse into the bung of the bottle

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
23 January 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On The Nickel pays homage to the cameraderie and last-ditch decency among the dying – in this case, late-stage alcoholics. Eking out a life of sorts on Los Angeles' Skid Row, the characters, for the most part, are not only chemically dependent but also homeless and, often, mentally ill. They also constitute one of the many sub-groups of society which the dominant culture prefers to keep invisible; the movie shows them as human beings with personalities and passions, and their own codes of honor. That's its principal strength but also its weakness – it comes close to sentimentalizing what is, when all is said and done, a devastating disease.

Donald Moffat, an ex-habitué of the Row now in grumpy sobriety for 18 months, is lured out of his spartan room by rumors that an old drinking buddy (Ralph Waite, who directed) may be in trouble, or dead. With another sober but troubled pal (Hal Williams), he starts scouring his old haunts – the missions that try, or just purport, to help drunks and the city parks, beseiged by cops, where the drunks pass out for the night. He finds his friend, but the rumors were premature; Waite dies the following day. The movie ends with his ashes being liberated from a city crematorium (we're told that alcoholics burn swiftly and with a `bright blue flame') and given a boisterous send-off , for some unexplained reason to the haunting Australian anthem `Waltzing Matilda.'

A low-budget production, On The Nickel sometimes lapses into amateurish improvisation of the cinema-verité style; it's also episodic, with long stretches full of raffish or poignant atmosphere when the forward momentum – the narrative – stalls. But these are forgivable flaws in an honorable and, at times, memorable glimpse into the bung of the bottle.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Bringing it up to-date

10/10
Author: Hanky Po from Los Angeles, Calif
17 August 1999

I saw the film many years ago,and thought it was wonderful!I recently talked with someone who had been involved with the picture and as a result, my interest was rekindled.I rented it (not easy to do)and watched it twice. It's as fresh as it was twenty years ago, the performances are outstanding,and worth seeing.A simple story of skid row which seems totally real.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I thought this was an excellent movie and I would like to buy a copy of it if it is available on VHS or DVD, please let me know where I can purchase a copy.

10/10
Author: ramblings from Victoria BC, Canada
31 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie moved me so much. I thought it was very well done and I would like to buy a copy of it if it is available on VHS or DVD, please advise where I can purchase a copy. Ralph Waite was so good and I particularly loved the dance scene where they sang Waltzing Matilda. When Ralph Waite died and his friends were trying to get his body it was so funny, they all remarked about the parts and when they found a bag outside the mortuary their remark about it "them's parts". The whole movie gave a new perspective on the life of a derelict and reminded me that any one of us could end up in similar situations and that we really should remember to treat all we meet the same way that we would like to be treated.

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