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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Mikey & Nicky (1976)

Nicky: I don't take care of myself. I think, if I don't take care of myself and I sit still and I don't move, maybe they'll forget about me. But then I'm scared of that too, because I think maybe if I sit there too long, maybe when I want to move, I won't be able to move.
Mikey: You sound like you're ready for a straitjacket.

- John Cassavetes, Peter Falk

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: December 20, 2004

Stars: Peter Falk, John Cassavetes
Other Stars: Ned Beatty, M. Emmet Walsh
Director: Elaine May

MPAA Rating: R for (language, violence, some sensuality)
Run Time: 01h:46m:16s
Release Date: December 21, 2004
UPC: 037429186923
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-B B

DVD Review

Nicky (Cassavetes) is in trouble. Stuck in a cruddy hotel room nursing a nasty ulcer, he is awaiting the executioner's knock. Stealing money from a powerful crime lord does not go unpunished, and the self-abusive Nicky is reveling in self pity, awaiting the bullet that will finish his last miserable moments. When he hears a sound from the door, it is thankfully not death, but his best (and only) friend, Mikey (Falk), ready and willing to protect him. Nicky is on the edge of sanity, and is at times plummeting off that cliff. Paranoia is all consuming, and his actions are erratic, irrational, and desperate. He wants nothing more than to live, though he exhibits no hint of regret for the actions that brought his misery on.

Mikey has been Nicky's committed friend since childhood, though Nicky may not realize it. The Dead Man Walking is oblivious to the world around him, lacking a theory of mind, exhibiting the selfish meanderings of a toddler. He is brutish, cruel and manipulative, frequently harming his acquaintances through mental and physical means, but his unending charm tends to pick up the slack. Mikey sees his friend in his darkest hour, and is determined to help him out, but Nicky does not make it easy. The two embark on an odyssey through the damp city night, drinking, arguing, visiting dead relatives, and fighting shadows, the next of which may be the hit man Nicky so debilitatingly fears.

Elaine May's Mikey & Nicky is a bold experiment in improvisation, akin to the pioneering, adventurous outings of John Cassavetes himself. This film is clearly modeled after the loose, vérité work of the father of American independent cinema, but is certainly less successful. May shot the film in long, uninterrupted takes, creating very liberating environments for the actors, but resulting in distracting continuity errors that are peppered throughout (along with a few out-of-focus shots). This is easy to forgive if the film engages, but Mikey & Nicky only moderately succeeds at doing so. It tends to degenerate into lengthy scenes of tedium that may predate the verbal nothings of Tarantino, but are far less memorable.

This is not to say the film is devoid of strengths. Peter Falk and John Cassavetes are terrific together, creating a fine, powerful dynamic that results in some real emotion, stemming from some clever improvisation. Though we are privy to an actors' studio of a high caliber, I can't help but notice the duo's occasional foundering under May's loose reigns. Cassavetes comes off as over the top and annoying at times, and certain scenes are like verbal cotton candy. Still, the two capture an effectively chummy side of gangster life, and do not shy away from the dark consequences of such work, including the wives and families who are left at home to worry.

There is a major twist that is not adequately explored toward the end, but an undeniable energy saturates some of these scenes, including a Pesci-like tirade by Falk over some cream and Cassavetes' brutal attack on a lippy bus driver (played by a young M. Emmet Walsh)—precursers to Scorsese's violent outbursts. Despite some strong moments, some of which are darky comedic, I sometimes found myself lost in the meanderings of this two-man show.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Home Vision's transfer is excellent—as good as this film can look. It's undergone considerable restoration, and it shows. Contrast is good, exhibiting deep blacks that occassionally go murky to save on detail. The image looks relatively soft and contains fine grain throughout, but this is not distracting. This is a very satisfying, clean image that shows no hints of edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: A monaural 2.0 track showcases clear dialogue without hiss or distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert with liner notes by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Extras Review: There are a few worthwhile extras here. First is a collection of interviews conducted in 2004 by Home Vision. The first segment features Michael Hausman (14m:45s), the second is with Victor J. Kemper (09m:02s), and the third showcases the two reflecting on the cemetary and street scenes (12m:32s). Both men are excited to be revisiting this film, and have some interesting on-set anecdotes, memories, and observations to offer. Short of a scene-specific commentary, these are great additions.

Restoration Documentary (15m:00s) takes a comprehensive look at the restoration of Mikey & Nicky, from original elements to color-timed digital master. The work was done by i-cubed, in Chicago, and we are shown the steps of the process via before-and-after comparisons and interviews with the i-cubed staff. One especially interesting portion features cinematographer Victor J. Kemper via conference call dictating the proper colors for various scenes in the film. We then get to see the changes in action, some of which correct glaring continuity errors. Well done.

Finally, an insert contains liner notes on the film's history by noted critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

My feelings are mixed on this one. Mikey & Nicky is a distant cousin of Cassavetes' own, greater works. It attempts to find the same level of daring energy, but tends to bog down in its own freedom. Still, Falk and Cassavetes have a memorable dynamic, creating some engaging moments. Home Vision's superb effort is certainly recommended for fans of the film.

 


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