Mikey & Nicky is available to be streamed for free using your library card through Kanopy.
(Disclaimer: This film contains mature content and adult situations.)
Mikey & Nicky (1976) is one of my favorite films of all time! And my love of the film might have something to do with the fact that one of the main characters shares my name, and happens to be played by John Cassavetes, arguably the most important Greek-American people in all of film history. Cassavetes was a bit of a raw force of nature when it came to his work-ethic, willingness to self-fund his projects, and ability to depict truth.
Nicky’s best friend and counterpart, Mikey is played by Peter Falk, most known for his role as the lovable Detective Colombo from the TV show Colombo. However, before Colombo, Falk was known for playing menacing, quiet, manic villains. Falk demonstrates a bit of both of those kinds of roles as Mikey. Cassavetes on the other hand tended to always play characters that never quite got their act together and were a bit crazy, yet always strangely endearing. I guess you might call the Cassevetes character archetype, the slightly lovable low-life, and that definitely is the case with his performance as Nicky. In addition to Falk and Cassavetes, is Ned Beatty, whose befuddled hitman character, Kinney, adds moments of quiet humor.
Mikey & Nicky is essentially the director Elaine May’s successful attempt at a dark comedy, gangster film with reachable main characters. And the film’s style and rough aesthetic works so well with Cassavetes and Falk’s strengths as actors. Elaine May’s career and accomplishments as a comedian, film director, screen writer, and actress are very impressive and important. May was the third woman to be accepted into the Director’s Guild of America, famous for using huge amounts of film during her projects, and fought very hard to get Mikey & Nicky made. For more unique facts about the film and Elaine May, check out the article 10 Things I learned: Mikey & Nicky.
The other film Mikey & Nicky brings to mind is the locally shot The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), particularly the diner scenes in both films pictured above. However, the pacing and overall moods vary drastically. Eddie Coyle is much more sleepy and soft, whereas Mikey & Nicky is kinetic and harsh. I would also argue that Mikey & Nicky very much served as a template and foundation for two of my other favorite films, both directed by the Safdie brothers, Good Time (2017) and Uncut Gems (2019). The Safdie brothers actually list five Cassavetes films in their Criterion Top-Ten List. Furthermore, immediately after I finished my first draft of this post, while searching for Mikey & Nicky images, I found this rather interesting National Review article by film critic Armand White, presenting a comparison between the film and Uncut Gems.
I hope you give the film a try, and end up enjoying Mikey & Nicky as much as I do.
Take care and stream on!
Nick, Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian