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Author Topic: Hickey & Boggs (1972) Smog Noir "its not about anything"  (Read 1482 times)
cigar joe
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« on: March 31, 2015, 06:10:05 PM »

Directed by Robert Culp, Written by Walter Hill, Starring Bill Cosby, Robert Culp, Rosalind Cash, Isabel Sanford, Sheila Sullivan, Carmencristina Moreno, Louis Moreno, Robert Mandan, Michael Moriarty, Bill Hickman, Vincent Gardenia, Ed Lauter, and James Woods.


Super Chief arriving at Union Station

Al Hickey (Cosby) and Frank Boggs (Culp) are two ex LAPD cops scrapping the bottom of the barrel trying to make ends meet as PI's in the brown haze of the smoggy gas guzzler dominated LA of the seventies.  Their office is a back room accessed from a parking lot through a dilapidated peeling panel door, they can't pay their phone bill and the answering service so they opt for the service which they can check from phone booths. They dine on chillidogs from a street vendor and strategize the case at their local bar. Hickey drives a '62 Chevy Nova and is estranged from his wife & daughter, Boggs is a boozer, has a dented '61 T-bird, watches his ex-wife Elaine dance at a Live Nude Girl joint enduring her "eat your heart out" verbal jabs, and pays prostitutes at 20 bucks a pop.



Chillidogs

The film nicely transitions through Tinseltown's classic Film Noir icons of the past, the classic streamlined silver Super Chief "F" units, Union Station, and the Los Angeles City Hall to the smog shrouded broken dream downtown of 1970s.



The City Of Angels (with Carmencristina Moreno top right)



Noir-ish

The tale starts when a creepy pedophile-ish lawyer named Rice hires the team to just find his "wife" Mary Jane (Carmencristina Moreno). Rice works for Leroy the head of a black power organization. Mary Jane is really the wife of Quemando (Louis Moreno) who held up a federal reserve bank in Pittsburgh for $400,000. She just hit town on the Super Chief and is trying to unload the hot money to various factions around SOCAL by mailing $1000 dollar samples to them, one of which is syndicate mobster Brill (Robert Mandan) who bankrolled the original heist.

Given a list of leads, Hickey & Boggs begin a strange journey through the miasma of decadence and decay of The City Of Angels that one usually never saw, LA's chamber of commerce should have had a coronary. The film is filled with the ambient sounds of roaring freeway traffic, passing disembodied conversations and pounding surf.  

The various leads our boys encounter make a nice cross section weird characters, nobody seems normal except for the  the Mexican American family and they are the bank robbers.

Hickey in the course of the tale discovers a dead lead and then Boggs uncovers a hidden envelope containing the sample bills in his house. After reporting the murder to the police and the discovery of the bills the authorities match the serial numbers to the Pittsburgh heist Hickey & Boggs are informed of a $25,000 reward. Now the boys have a motivated goal.



Rosalind Cash



Boggs and ex wife/Live Nude Girl Elaine



Gardinia and Lauter



Downtown



Living on the edge LA style

The detectives Hickey & Boggs are similar to their earlier counterparts in spirit but here in this film they have lost the power to change their situations. In part I think this is more the fault of the screenplay. Whether the original Walter Hill screenplay or Bill Culp's changes or studio suits are to blame is worth investigating. In classic hard boiled stories the confrontations were small scale, the stories convoluted but still simple. Here, our two dicks are out gunned in three confrontations even battling helicopter mounted machine guns at the final denouement. This may be an effect of the increasing popularity of the Action Genre in the 70's and trying to modernize a traditional noir story into an action film rather than any statement of the ineffectuality of a private dick in the modern world. But they do win in the end but at a big cost.

A film not without faults 8/10.

from IMDb

Culp directs self, Cosby in brutally effective early-70s noir update

Author: bmacv from Western New York
20 April 2002

Action and suspense films from the early 1970s have a distinctive period flavor to them. The surprisingly effective Hickey and Boggs co-star Robert Culp's sole directorial effort embodies that disillusioned and dissolute era of movie making. The rough and choppy editing, the oddly cropped shots keep the viewer on edge; so do the less than pristine cinematography and the cacophonous sound track, with dialogue overlaid on a constant, dull background roar of ambient noise. Often this proved to be a recipe for pretentious but empty disasters and cynical exploitation films; here, it all works to keep the level of unease of menace uncomfortably high.

Bill Cosby and Robert Culp play the title characters, a couple of down-on-their-luck Los Angeles private investigators. (Many moviegoers of the era apparently expected a big-screen reprise of their successful pairing in the television spoof of the 1960s, I Spy; how wrong they were.) They are engaged to find a missing woman by one of those creepily effete characters who, since Peter Lorre's Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon, exist only to set up private eyes in the movies. And as they go about their sleuthing, they uncover a trail of brutally murdered corpses, a situation which does not endear them to the police. They come to learn that the woman they're tracking holds the take from a robbery of the Federal Reserve Bank in Pittsburgh some years before; they've been hired as finger men by one of a number of murky but vicious groups seeking to retrieve the cash.

The movie forgoes crisp, clockwork plotting for a generalized miasma of corruption, duplicity and malaise. There are allusions to the turbulent politics of the times in the involvement of black militants and Chicano radicals; there are whiffs, too, of the specter of newly hatched sexualities that threaten the status quo. At the scene of one murder, they find crushed amyl nitrite poppers and gay porn, while the jaded oldster who engages them suns himself on a towel sited suspiciously close to a set of swings where young children are cavorting; for that matter Culp, in his cups and a masochistic, self-pitying mood, watches his ex-wife flaunt herself in a strip club to be ogled by drunken strangers.

The malaise, of course, becomes murderous in Walter Hill's very violent screenplay, touching Cosby's character (his estranged wife ends up tortured to death). Still, the two dead-end dicks soldier on, more though one another's goading than from any code or commitment they're both on the verge of giving up and sliding down into the vortex of lust, avarice and revenge that has become their world (and by extension, THE world). Describing Hickey and Boggs makes it sound like the ultimate downer; it is, but it's an uncommonly compelling piece of film making, and one that has pretty much fallen through the cracks of movie history.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 06:30:24 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2015, 01:42:10 PM »

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film5/blu-ray_reviews_66/hickey_and_boggs_blu-ray.htm

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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2015, 12:49:33 AM »

Yeah it's an unusual but good movie, that has some faults that debilitate its climb to greatness, yet truth be told: in essence it's not a movie made to be great anyway.


Between 7.5 and 8/10 for me, and I re-watch it every now and then. Afro

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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2015, 06:43:57 AM »

It's in there with the great films of the 70s--with The Last Detail, Lenny, Slaughterhouse-5, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Fat City, The Long Goodbye, etc.--although it doesn't quite rise to those levels. But when you compare it to the crap they make now . . . .

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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2015, 12:53:10 PM »

A film not without faults 8/10. I  think the faults lie first in the plot: Some story turns just do not add up: but that is quite the rule with this kind of flick. Here though they exaggerate. The second is Culp: he looks too slick for the part, so very well shaved for a supposedly dilapitated alcoholic. But you have many good scenes and this is just a notch below other PI movies of the era.

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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2015, 04:37:52 PM »

This is hard to rate because I enjoyed it but I found the plot hard to navigate. It's confusing but not in a fun, Big Sleep kind of way, but in more of a "wait, what the fuck is going on" type way. I did like the movie, the main characters had good chemistry but the script had a lot of small issues. For instance, there's a scene where Cosby visits his daughter (?) and the child's grandmother comes out (?) and then the kid faints (?) and then the lady yells at Cosby. There were quite a few odd things like that sprinkled throughout the movie.

It's good and probably worth revisiting but even with my Walter Hill bias I wouldn't rate this higher than a very generous 8.

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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2015, 04:47:15 PM »

For instance, there's a scene where Cosby visits his daughter (?) and the child's grandmother comes out (?) and then the kid faints (?) and then the lady yells at Cosby. There were quite a few odd things like that sprinkled throughout the movie.

That sequence is after his wife is tortured to death, Cosby is grieving on the steps while the grandmother is cursing him out and his daughter is going through trauma mowing the lawn until she goes into shock.

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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2015, 06:41:44 PM »

The main question mark it is about how they trace immediately the released convict toward the end. Is he such a fool to get back to his home, i.e. the house of the florist? And then, incredibly there is the question of the two watching 3 "tough guys" (their own words, as I gather from the italian dubbing) just going to pay a visit to the florist and instead of staying there and seeing what happens they leave the place.

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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2015, 01:47:47 PM »

That sequence is after his wife is tortured to death, Cosby is grieving on the steps while the grandmother is cursing him out and his daughter is going through trauma mowing the lawn until she goes into shock.

Fair enough, but I wasn't 100% she was his wife and that was his daughter and that was the same girl we saw later in the movie. Normally, I don't like when everything is specifcially laid-out but this script was sloppy when it came to details or the who/why/when and wheres.

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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2015, 03:29:45 AM »

Fair enough, but I wasn't 100% she was his wife and that was his daughter and that was the same girl we saw later in the movie. Normally, I don't like when everything is specifcially laid-out but this script was sloppy when it came to details or the who/why/when and wheres.

It's got it's faults.

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