Mikey and Nicky

Director: Elaine May
Screenwriters: Elaine May

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


John Cassavetes and Peter Falk portray two old gangster friends, one forced to set up the other’s murder—it’s a story in which the subject of friendship is played in every key from the sweet to the macabre. Here Cassavetes returns to the character he originated twenty years earlier in Crime in the Streets and Edge of the City. Now that kid, having lived a sleazy life, is as grown up as he’s going to get. He has one last night to try to come to terms with the desperation he’s felt all his life. His attempts, always riveting, are pathetic and frightening by turns—especially when he visits his mother’s grave and breaks out helplessly into demonic cackling.

Elaine May’s script and direction seem so deeply influenced by Cassavetes that viewers may be forgiven for forgetting that this is not Cassavetes’s own film. However, reviewers who were put off by its intensity can’t be forgiven for spreading the unfounded rumor that the film was largely improvised. Peter Falk reacted with a rare flash of anger to this idea, saying, “They think you can improvise work like that?! What are they, crazy?!”

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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