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
Bernie Abramson, Lucien Ballard, Jack Cooperman, Jerry File, Victor J. Kemper
John Carter, Sheldon Kahn
In the Spotlight: Crime Scenes
Mikey and Nicky
Marked for assassination, lowly gangster Mikey (John Cassavetes) calls his best friend, Nicky (Peter Falk), the only man he can trust, and they deviate around New York City all night, one step ahead of a professional hitman (Ned Beatty).
Scorsese's expressionist, hallucinatory rendition of an infernal New York puts us in the head of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro),"God's lonely man", an insomniac who crisscrosses the city at night and dreams of claiming something better for himself.
The Late Show
Ira (Carney) comes out of retirement when his old partner Harry bleeds to death on his doorstep. What had he been working on? The case of a missing cat... Lily Tomlin, Harry's kooky client, joins forces to unearth the truth - and get her cat back.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Ben Gazzara is Cosmo Vitelli, proud owner of the strip joint Crazy Horse West and in every sense a showman. His fondness for gambling lands him in trouble with the mob, but they offer him an out: all he has to do is murder the eponymous Chinaman...
More Films in This Series
Dog Day Afternoon
Based on a true story of a New York bank robbery which turned into a hostage siege (and a media spectacle), Sidney Lumet's gripping movie showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the homosexual, married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber.
The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma's career, Carrie takes Stephen King's horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller".
All the President's Men
This gripping account of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation into the Watergate break-in is a masterclass of cinematic craft from director Alan J Pakula (Klute; The Parallax View) and DP Gordon Willis (The Godfather).
The Parallax View
The most lucid and ingenious, the most deeply, creepily satisfying of paranoia thrillers, Alan J. Pakula's film posits an assassination corporation. Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is on to Them, or so he believes…
A passion project for producer-star Warren Beatty, this frothy boudoir comedy of Beverly Hills manners views its hairdresser hero's bed-hopping with a certain sadness. Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher come along for the ride.