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Mikey and Nicky

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A fringe gangster, Mikey (John Cassavetes) is convinced he’s marked for assassination. He calls his best and oldest friend, Nicky (Peter Falk), the only man he can trust, and they deviate around New York City all night, one step ahead of a hitman (Ned Beatty).

Elaine May’s third film is a complete change of pace, even if it’s oddly true that all four of movies have centred on men. Still, as more than one critic has noted, Mikey and Nicky feels more like a Cassavetes film than a scewy comedy (not that these things are incompatible). It is a comedy, but a very bleak one, a study in male fear, friendship and rivalry.

“Masculinity never got more toxic, or more desolate, than in Mikey and Nicky, an extraordinary noir drama from the great writer, comic and film-maker Elaine Mayk. Starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk, each at the top of his acting game, it is a neglected 1976 gem from a neglected Hollywood genius. May was known for her comedy but here proves absolutely fluent in the language of mobster lowlife, with an edge of caustic, disillusioned humour, and strange yet shockingly real outbursts of violence… Mikey and Nicky is a film about talking: the characters talk, talk, talk with theatrical vehemence and musicality. This is a stag-rutting choreography of the emotions, with a sour smell of lonely defeated men, a tang of being up all night with cigarettes and beer. It is a vivid, almost sensually rancid slice of 1970s cinema, a movie in which you can almost taste the sweat in the air. There’s that wailing, moaning ambient sound of car horns on the soundtrack that you only get in American pictures of that era. And it is an extraordinary succession of scenes and tableaux: the bars – including one where Nicky makes a racist remark and narrowly escapes with his life – the movie theatre foyers, the buses, the streets. And above all, the faces; faces that Gillray or Hogarth might have drawn; faces from a nightmare or an odyssey through hell.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Mikey and Nicky is a sublimely sad, shockingly grim portrait of friendship, toxic masculinity and the dismal realities of duplicity.

Nicholas Bell, IONcinema

A dark and penetrating drama about friendship, loyalty, self-preservation, and the kind of empty machismo that would one day be referred to as toxic masculinity.’ Most of all, it is about betrayal, a concept that is the key thematic link that binds all of May’s films together… This is a wild and exhilarating work that continues to astonish… a treasure that is positively ripe for rediscovery.

Peter Sobczynski, rogerebert.com

Aug 11 Only: Introduction from Ragged Glory programmer and John Cassavetes biographer Tom Charity

Director

Elaine May

Cast

John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ned Beatty

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1976

Language

English

19+
106 min

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Credits

Producer

Michael Hausman

Screenwriter

Elaine May

Cinematography

Bernie Abramson, Lucien Ballard, Jack Cooperman, Jerry File, Victor J. Kemper

Editor

John Carter, Sheldon Kahn

Original Music

John Strauss

Production Design

Paul Sylbert

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