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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Hickey and Boggs (1972)

This is an interesting movie that I was recently reminded about when some folks online were talking about it. It had been on my to watch list before but as is the case when I have so many damn movies to check out, I had forgotten about it. Based on a script written by Walter Hill (48 Hours, The Warriors) and directed by Robert Culp, who also stars, it follows a pair of detectives played by Culp and frequent co-star Bill Cosby. Am I allowed to like a Bill Cosby movie anymore?

We follow along as they are hired to find a woman named Mary Jane, which seems like a simple job. But this gets them into a lot of trouble as Mary Jane is tangled up in some missing money from a robbery that the mob wants back. I think it is her husband that was part of the crew that stole the money and then hid it from the gangsters that were either owed a cut or planned the crime. The movie doesn’t really tell us too much about that. What we do see is our detectives Hickey (Cosby) and Boggs (Culp) running around Los Angeles dodging mob hitmen, the police, and other folks looking for Mary Jane and the missing cash which she is trying to launder. This leads to some shootouts, fist fights, and a finale that honestly, I didn’t see coming.

I’m trying to keep things a bit vague as much of the fun here is watching the story unfold. What I’ve shared about the stolen money, Mary Jane, and the mob is shown early on. But there are some other plot twists that I don’t want to spoil. What I can say is that I rather enjoyed the movie. The story plays out like an old film noir with some hardboiled detectives dealing with the criminal underground dodging bullets while trying to get some resolution. Even after getting fired they keep at it. Why? I’m not entirely sure but I get the feeling that they have some sort of code that makes them feel they must see it thru. But then again by then they have figured out that some serious cash is involved. Plus, there is a thing that happens later which makes it very personal for Hickey.

I will admit that like many of the hard boiled detective flicks this one does meander a bit and leans so heavily into the dozens of characters that it can feel a bit long and confusing at points. The filmmakers don’t feel obliged to spoon feed the audience how all the characters and goings on connect to one another. This is the sort of movie that you have to pay close attention to and even then, might lose you. Now I like that sort of thing, so I had no issues with it. I just wanted to point it out.

The cast here is solid and filled with many familiar faces. Not only do we have the stars Culp and Cosby, but this is a whose who of seventies television stars and character actors. Rosalind Cash (Good Times, Uptown Saturday Night) is Hickey’s ex, Robert Mandan (Soap, Kojak) is the mob boss, Michael Moriarty (Law and Order, The Stuff) is one of his henchmen. Hell Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) has a blink and you will miss it bit part. When you have a cast this good it is hard to make a bad movie.

Hickey and Boggs has a gritty take that many later seventies flicks would share. While I won’t say that this is to the level as something like The French Connection, Chinatown, or Serpico it does scratch a familiar itch. If you haven’t seen this one before and like those movies I think you may enjoy it. If nothing else it might be worth a watch just to see an early writing effort from Walter Hill as well as the only feature movie directed by Robert Culp. That last one really bugs me because I think he had an interesting vision and would have loved to see more from him as a director. As of the writing of this review you can find this one floating around the internet to watch for free as well as a reasonably priced DVD.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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