Paranoia is the chief problem Beatty suffers from in this moody, murky, and often frightening movie about nightclub entertainers and Chicago mobsters. Beatty is a stand-up comic, not very good, who runs up a lot of gambling debts and then runs away because he thinks he is about to get
beaten up for nonpayment. He hides out on the West Side of Chicago, using an assumed name, and gets a janitorial job, spending most of his waking hours hauling garbage. Then Beatty's ego, not unlike that of Lenny Bruce's, yearns to be edified again; he must go back on the stage and win applause at
all costs. He contacts his agent, Hart, who books him into Hatfield's club. Before resuming his career, Beatty is almost evicted from his apartment for nonpayment of rent. He falls in love with the tenant scheduled to replace him, Stewart, who pays his way. Beatty shows up at Hatfield's nightclub
but freezes when he learns that Hatfield has arranged for him to perform before only one man who ostensibly will get him jobs in many nightclubs throughout the Midwest. Beatty assumes that the man is a member of the syndicate who is looking to punish him, so he cuts his act short in panic and
flees. Guilt-ridden, Beatty runs madly about town looking for the mob's floating crap game so he can square things, but he is beaten senseless for his efforts by a group of doormen all dressed in different uniforms. He returns to an incensed Hatfield, who tells him he is more or less in bondage to
him for the rest of his life. Beatty is convinced when he hears that Hart has vanished and presumes him a murder victim of the mob, Hart having paid for Beatty's welching. He opens at the Hatfield club, resigned to his dismal fate.
This is a bleak underworld opus erratically directed by Penn and filled with too many neurotics, in addition to the jumpy Beatty, to be wholly believable. The only person of real substance here is Stewart, and she obviously loses sexual control of Beatty to Hatfield, whose homosexual posture in
MICKEY ONE is savage and repugnant. Everyone except Stewart, in fact, seems distorted and grotesque: Hatfield, the gnomelike Hart, and manic-eyed Tone who looks like he has one foot in the grave and hisses his lines. The story is basically pretentious and lags along in spots, jolted into action
only by sophomoric motivations. To say that this film is in the Hitchcockian tradition, as several critics in the past have done, is to commit cinematic heresy. Beatty's haunted character is nevertheless obsessive and fascinating as he runs about the on-location sites in Chicago where the
production was centered. The unmistakable stamp made upon the film by Penn and Beatty, who teamed again later to make the impressive BONNIE AND CLYDE, is a capital "A" for art, which meant commercial doom. Stan Getz's frenetic jazz renditions, composed by Eddie Sauter, are too loud and irritating
to create the proper mood.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Paranoia is the chief problem Beatty suffers from in this moody, murky, and often frightening movie about nightclub entertainers and Chicago mobsters. Beatty is a stand-up comic, not very good, who runs up a lot of gambling debts and then runs away because… (more)