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USA 1976
Directed by
Elaine May
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Mikey & Nicky

Writer/director Elaine May's existential/American New Wave gangster movie, like the French exemplars to which it owes much, if not everything, is an episodic ramble that for no apparent intrinsic reason is highly regarded in some quarters. It feels like a stage play and might have worked as such but in a real-life it comes across as a direly middle-class and a faintly ridiculous portrayal of a couple of men with homo-erotic tendencies (in this respect it shows some communality her former partner, Mike Nichols’ film about a couple of males and their mid-life crises, Carnal Knowledge, 1971).

John Cassavetes is the Jean Paul Belmondo-like Nicky, a gangster with a stomach ulcer who thinks the Mob are going to whack him for ripping them off. He calls his long-time friend, Mikey (Peter Falk), and the two spend the night raking over the past. Falk and Cassavetes were, of course, regular collaborators on the latter’s much more successful films (Cassavetes released his own, vastly superior gangster movie, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie. the same year) and they riff away in their easy manner whilst May films them cinema verité style as they wander through the night on a emotional face-off, culminating in a wrestle on the wet means streets that are their turf (apparently). Adding another note of ridiculousness Ned Beatty plays a low rent hit man who is not very good at identifying his mark.

May’s cut was understandably rejected by Paramount and when finally released, the film was critically panned. Since then it has found champions although no matter how commendable the core concept may be, frankly, May wasn’t the director to make it work.




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