By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Comic hides his identity.
Warren Beatty plays a successful night club comic who’s living the good life until he falls into disfavor with the mob. He decides to go on the run by burning his social security card and getting a new one with a Russian name on it that is so hard to pronounce that everyone just calls him Mickey One. After spending time on the streets of Chicago he finally gets himself another gig at a club run by Ed Castle (Hurd Hatfield), but the better things get for Mickey the more paranoid he becomes convinced that he is being watched and followed at every turn and unable to relax for even a second.
This film marks the first pairing of Beatty and director Arthur Penn and their next project, Bonnie and Clyde, was a great success, but the results here are only so-so. The idea of trying to replicate the artsy French New Wave films of the late ‘50s and early 60s is intriguing, but poor pacing and a lack of consistent style hurts it. An early scene taking place inside an automobile junkyard has just the right combination of crisp editing and camerawork to give it an enticing visual quality, but then the film veers off into too many talky segments. It manages to recover at the end by giving the viewer a strong sense of the paranoia that the main character is feeling, but wide shifts in the film’s dramatic tone hurts it overall making this more of an interesting curio than a classic.
Beatty is okay, but he tends to be a bit too detached and his attempts at stand-up comedy are unfunny despite the many shots of audience members laughing. Hatfield is terrific in support and his presence significantly helps. Franchot Tone is also quite good in a part that features no lines of dialogue.
The film does have some unique and memorable moments. Tone’s strange art exhibit that he names the Yes Machine that he constructs on the ice rink of the Marina Towers is engaging particularly when he sets it on fire only to have it put out and ruined by the Chicago fire department. The best moment though is when Beatty tries to do a stand-up routine in an empty and darkened room with only a bright spotlight shining on him and a mysterious, unseen man sitting behind it, which has the perfect blend of mood and style and a scene I wished had been extended.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: September 27, 1965
Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes
Director: Arthur Penn
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video