Transcendent Gangster Flick – MIKEY & NICKY
MIKEY & NICKY is a thinking man’s mob movie way ahead of its time.
Though later her star would dim thanks to the infamous debacle Ishtar, writer/director Elaine May has been one of the consistently talented trailblazers in the field of entertainment, first as half of the comedy duo Nichols & May (along with The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? director Mike Nichols) and later as a director and writer in her own right. In 1976 she joined forces with John Cassavetes and Peter Falk to make Mikey & Nicky, one of the more unique and enduring mob films out there. When we first meet Nicky (John Cassavetes) he’s out of his mind paranoid, hiding out in a run-down hotel, watching the window and sucking down cigarettes, convinced a local mob boss is out to get him. There’s no one he can trust except his old friend Mikey (Peter Falk), who shows up to help him get out of town. What follows is a night spent travelling – to a bar, a movie theater, to the cemetery where Nicky’s mother is buried, and to Nicky’s girlfriend’s apartment. At each of these places we discover something about the friendship, and reevaluate the stakes. Old grudges resurface, as charismatic, abusive Nicky finds himself reliant upon the unsuccessful and pathetic Mikey, reversing the power dynamic which has defined their friendship over the years. May manages the audience’s curiosity expertly, and fills our minds with questions: is Mikey dependable? What exactly is their relationship? Does Nicky deserve to get rubbed out? Does Mikey have what it takes to set Nicky up? It’s a character study in the hands of two of the finest actors ever to walk the Earth, and by blending Cassavetes’ improvisational, chamber-drama style with her own comic and dramatic sensibilities, May achieves a perfect balance of underground and mainstream filmmaking, and creates a classic crime-film that delves into the heart of friendship and loyalty. It’s a fascinating movie, at once intimate and universal, and it’s a testament to the talents of all involved.