MIKEY AND NICKY
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Peter Falk, John Cassavetes,
Director: Elaine May
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: January 22, 2019
ďItís very hard to talk to a dead person. I have nothing in common.Ē
It might be weird seeing writer/director Elaine May associated with a film about mobsters. May made a name for herself in crafting such lighthearted fare as The Heartbreak Kid and A New Leaf. But she also happened to have connection to nefarious characters within her own family circle, which allowed her to explore that territory with Mikey and Nicky.
At the heart of the film is the relationship between the two title characters, played by Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. This film actually serves as the first time Falk and Cassavetes collaborated on a project. They would go on to work together on a few films with Cassavetes as director, most notably A Woman Under the Influence.
And sure enough, their chemistry is the strongest element here. The movie surrounding it, however, is nothing really special, as it is comprised of many elements that have been done in countless other films and done much better. And all throughout it, it feels as though May was trying to mirror the image of a John Cassavetes film with the low key style she has applied to the proceedings.
The basic story is that Nicky (Cassavetes) is a bookie whoís in serious trouble after stealing a large sum of money from a mob outfit. With a dispatched hit man (Ned Beatty) out to hunt him down, Nicky finds comfort when confronted by his old pal Mikey (Falk), who attempts to hide him from the mob enforcer.
As the film progresses, we get endless bouts of great dialogue exchanges between the two actors, and we do quickly buy into them being friends by the conversations they engage in. Again, itís attributed to the great relationship Falk and Cassavetes have both on and off camera.
But when the film shifts focus back into the main plotline, it simply gets less and less interesting, and it isnít helped by the fact that Nicky as a character isnít sympathetic in the slightest. He calls attention to himself on more than one occasion at times when it isnít needed, to the point that we really donít care if he survives his ordeal. Another weak element is Ned Beattyís hit man character is barely given enough screen time, which doesnít make matters better considering Beatty makes for one of the least intimidating mob enforcers upon first glance.
Itís really hard to knock a picture that contains such stellar work from its lead actors. Both Peter Falk and John Cassavetes exude top form work in Mikey and Nicky, but itís all in service of a less than engaging storyline. But I will say that itís far from Elaine Mayís worst work, since she did happen to helm the infamous disaster that was Ishtar.
BONUS: Though it was shot and completed in 1973, the film didnít get officially released until 1976, the same year as John Cassavetesí The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, which featured a lead character similar to that of Nicky, but done far better.
Criterion does yet another remarkable job here with a grand 4K restoration. Though the film displays a low grade style, the presentation provides knockout quality in regards to color and overall detail. The film takes place almost entirely at night, and the shadow details are quite stunning as are the appearance of street lights and lights associated with diners and clubs.
The PCM mono mix provides a fitting format for the dialogue delivery to shine, since dialogue is the main attraction here. And the various background noises associated the city setting are balanced out terrifically well, in addition.
This Criterion Blu-ray features new interview segments with distributor Julian Schlossberg and actress Joyce Van Patten, as well as one with critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey. Thereís also an excellent and lengthy audio interview with Peter Falk from 1976, a Trailer and TV spot, and an insert booklet featuring an essay by critic Nathan Rabin.
Despite the unbeatable chemistry between Peter Falk and John Cassavetes, there isnít too much elsewhere beneath the surface in Mikey and Nicky, which is sorely lacking something as far as mob related films are concerned.