50 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

June 01, 2015

MIKEY AND NICKY — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 

ColeSmithey.comElaine May wrote and directed “Mikey and Nicky” (1976) with the intention of creating a feminist think piece driven by her volatile male characters. The violence-prone machismo that Peter Falk and John Cassavetes display speaks to chronic social ills that continue in America. Though she allowed the production to go three times over budget, May created an exquisite companion piece to Cassavetes’s own films.

“Mikey and Nicky” is perfectly on par with “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.” Naturally, Paramount hated this gritty picture because of its unconventional nature. The studio took the film away from May to complete editing without her input. In 1986 May presented her approved version.

Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 10.54.23 PM

Mikey’s and Nicky’s ethically feeble relationship to the world around them presents a racist and sexist cocktail of public menace. Alcoholic Nick (Cassavetes) holes up in a fleabag hotel with a “thousand bucks” in downtown Philadelphia. He’s attempting to evade the “hit” his mob boss took out since catching Nick stealing. Nick calls on his childhood friend Mikey (Falk) to help him get out of town, or at least bring some half-and-half for Nick’s raging ulcer. Nick rightfully suspects that his closest pal might be in on the hit, but has no one else to turn to in his darkest hour. Cassavetes and Falk tear into their roles like hungry lions of a dying generation feasting for one last time. May’s story-rich script accommodates her actors’ improvisational riffing sprees.


Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 11.00.28 PM

Plot details bristle with emotional tension, as when Nick asks Mikey to trade overcoats with him before exiting the hotel because he thinks a hitman waits outside. Nick goes on to request that they exchange watches, “for luck.” In return Mikey asks to borrow Nick’s gun “in case they shoot at me it’d be lucky if I could shoot back.” Nick will test Mikey’s loyalty right up until the film's last tragic frame.


Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 10.55.22 PM

Over the course of the night Mikey and Nicky revisit their long history together even as Mikey conspires with the assassin (played by Ned Beatty) driving around looking for Nick. An impromptu visit to Nick's mother's grave leads to a fistfight.


Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 10.55.40 PM

May reaches the tone, rhythm, and kinetic gut-punch of a Cassavetes movie (think “Husbands,” 1970). The male-centric parameters plant disturbingly uncomfortable episodes of racist and sexist abuse at the hands of the characters with whom we are led to empathize. In one such scene a seemingly suicidal Nick makes trouble in a black bar where the patrons suppose Mikey and Nick to be undercover cops. Nick insults the boyfriend of a woman for whom he buys a drink, when he claims to share the man’s name “Mel.” The scene’s vehemence boils.


Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 10.58.18 PM

The showstopper comes when Nick takes Mikey to visit Nellie (Carol Grace) a girl who Nick characterizes as a slut. After having his way with Nellie on the living room floor while Mikey’s sits on a trashcan in the kitchen, Nick sends in Mikey to take his turn. The dramatically loaded scene proves a stunning indictment of ingrained sexist attitudes that explodes like a well-placed time bomb in a narrative that never stops looking for a fight.

Rated R. 119 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

March 20, 2015

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

ColeSmithey.comAs much an essential missing piece for audiences of David Lynch’s groundbreaking 1991-’92 television series (“Twin Peaks”) to gain closure as a stand-alone film, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” is an alternately funny, harrowing, and bizarre experience.

There are scenes that twist time to the point that you feel as if you’ve been drugged by a filmmaker working freely within a context of surreal narrative possibilities.

Twin peaks

Fans of the TV series may take umbrage at the recasting of Lara Flynn Boyle’s Donna Hayward character in the guise of Moira Kelly, but the discrepancy is mitigated by the plot aspect that the Donna we see here exists as Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) best friend before Laura’s mysterious death, the inciting incident for the TV series.

Fire-walk-with-me

Most significant to the overall catharsis of the picture is the fleshing out of Laura Palmer’s backstory regarding her escape into drugs and sexual promiscuity. Lynch earns every bit of the film’s R-rating in nudity filled scenes of semi-public group sexual expression that boil with cinematic style and perilously dark cultural overtones. A droning musical score and artistically applied strobe lighting add to the sequence's oppressive effect.

Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 11.07.00 PM

Populated with many of the colorful characters from the TV shown (as played by the same actors), the picture makes enjoyable use of extended cameo performances by the likes of Chris Isaak, David Bowie, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Fire-walk-with-me

The strange and dangerous world of “Twin Peaks” is alive and well in a movie that fuels obsession in viewers willing to take David Lynch’s wild cinematic ride. You’ll be talking backwards/forwards before you know it.

Rated R. 135 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

September 18, 2014

BONNIE AND CLYDE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Colesmithey.comArthur Penn’s recounting of the story of Bonnie and Clyde — two of America’s most iconic outlaws — is a seamless balancing act. Equal parts true-crime exposé, dysfunctional love story, and Depression-era think piece, the picture underscores American police departments’ longstanding proclivity for short cuts to justice, i.e. murder.

For all of the critical noise made over Penn’s methodical slow-motion hail of bullets massacre of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker at the hands of a small-town sheriff, the extended sequence of outrageous violence speaks volumes about the systemic corruption of America’s policing system. The bloody conclusion comprises the ethical essence of the film. As with the sad fate of many other millions of guilty and innocent U.S. citizens, Bonnie and Clyde were not afforded due process of law.  

Colesmithey.com

“Bonnie and Clyde” was released in 1967, two years before Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” employed an even more exaggerated, and controversial, climax of slo-mo bloodshed for its exiled hero cowboys. Film critics like Roger Ebert were quick to associate “Bonnie and Clyde” with the French New Wave — vis-à-vis François Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” — but Ebert and his ilk were reaching. Stylistically, Penn’s film shares little in common with Truffaut’s film, and even less with Jean-Luc Godard’s outlaw genre effort “Breathless.”

The fact that Truffaut introduced David Newman’s script for “Bonnie and Clyde” to Warren Beatty, the film’s future producer-and-lead-actor, had little to do with any direct influence from the Nouvelle Vague. Arthur Penn’s background in historic socially relevant dramatic material, on the other hand, meant a lot.

After directing stage plays in wartime Britain, Penn’s first film (“The Left Handed Gun” - 1958) was about the Old West outlaw Billy the Kid. Starring a young Paul Newman as William Henry McCarty (a.k.a. Billy the Kid), and based on a script by Gore Vidal, the apparent Western presented a thinly veiled social analysis about corrupt sheriffs.

Colesmithey.com

The grudge-carrying sheriff responsible for orchestrating the ambush that left Bonnie’s and Clyde’s bodies and car riddled with dozens of bullet holes, acted out his resentment over a photograph that the robber duo posed with him at gunpoint, before sending it to a local newspaper.   

Penn sets the Depression era’s hopeless condition in the forefront of the narrative. Clyde robs gas stations, stores, and banks because it’s the most expedient way he knows to make money in a society with few other options. He meets Bonnie whilst attempting to steal her brother’s car. Their mutual attraction is tempered by Clyde’s impotence; he may be a homosexual, closeted even to himself. Warren Beatty’s embrace of his character’s lack of sexual prowess adds significantly to explaining Clyde’s bravado and hunger for criminal fame. Clyde likes to announce, “We’re the Barrow Gang” before robbing a bank.

Colesmtihey.com

Faye Dunaway’s earthy portrayal of Bonnie, a small town beauty queen worthy of a greater fate than working all of her days as a diner waitress, answers the film’s burning questions about how and why Bonnie took up a life of crime with a man who couldn’t even fulfill her sexual needs. Arthur Penn uses the poem Bonnie writes telling hers and Clyde’s story as a grounding centerpiece for the story. Bonnie had brains to back up her beauty, but America’s dire social conditions provided her with no outlet for her potential to make a “sensational break.”

Not Rated. 111 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

Click Here to Pledge Your Support Through Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series