The Nickel Ride


1h 46m 1975

Brief Synopsis

The demise of a small-time Los Angeles crime boss is chronicled. He has been managing several warehouses of stolen goods, but is running out of space. Desperately needing more storage units, he does his best to secure some, but cannot get them fast enough to suit his boss who starts to believe that

Film Details

Also Known As
Nickel Ride
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Crime
Drama
Release Date
1975
Production Company
20th Century Fox
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

The demise of a small-time Los Angeles crime boss is chronicled. He has been managing several warehouses of stolen goods, but is running out of space. Desperately needing more storage units, he does his best to secure some, but cannot get them fast enough to suit his boss who starts to believe that he is more of a liability than an asset to their operation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Nickel Ride
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Crime
Drama
Release Date
1975
Production Company
20th Century Fox
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Nickel Ride & 99 and 44/100% Dead - THE NICKEL RIDE & 99 AND 44/100% DEAD - Action Double Feature from Shout! Factory


The critical work on the American New Wave, it seems, has only just begun. Robert Altman still gets a free skate (although, truth be told, M*A*S*H isn't nearly as substantial as his other '70s films), Hal Ashby has been sanctified but Alan J. Pakula has not, and Robert Aldrich's contribution to the decade are forgotten, while the proper canonization of Monte Hellman and Barbara Loden's Wanda is paperwork still waiting to be filed. Michael Ritchie had a sharp-tongued run no one remembers, and the few fascinating films Peter Fonda directed are still cinema non grata. The era's propensity for desperate road travel and dusty realism and pitiless narrative makes it the match for the meaning of film noir, but as yet it seems more critical and academic thought has been devoted, generally, to Blade Runner and E.T., and to the least of Hitchcock films, and to the oeuvre of David Fincher. There's still so much that's left out of the discussion - for example, the '67-'77 period's genuine, humanizing and startling passion for American subcultures, be it road racing, bar life, cockfighting, country music, grunt military life, farming, moonshining, surveillance work, rodeos, construction, beauty pageants, Little League baseball, and so on. For a span, a very real America thrived on movie screens, a nation we'd never seen before on film, and for that alone the era should be reexamined with an atomic microscope.

Robert Mulligan, one of the era's several Industry lions inherited from early TV and high-profile '60s hits, is certainly one of the forgotten, and his sullen 1974 wisp of a crime drama The Nickel Ride may never have been noticed at all. At the time, the film was one of a pack of nasty, urban-underbelly sagas produced in a flood after the success - d'estime and otherwise - of The French Connection (1971). (Others, so many of them worth finding then and now, include 1972's Prime Cut, 1973's The Seven-Ups, Scarecrow, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and Electra Glide in Blue, 1974's Busting, and 1975's The Yakuza.) The Nickel Ride's membership in this grungy platoon is in many ways more interesting than the film's particulars; just like noir, the small-boned, texture-intense '70s films are best considered as a cultural event in toto, as a mass expression of social anxiety and doubt. Each individual film is merely a panel in a polyptych. (Think about it: we watch real '40s-'50s noirs not for the possibility of brilliance in a certain film, but to enter into and deepen our experience with noir-ness.) All told, these films comprise a ultra-realistic, unsentimental portrait of our state of being otherwise unheard of in American film.

On board with that program in every way, Mulligan's film is very conscientiously minor, unspectacular, grim, a vignette of underworld fatalism in which not even a doomed last-ditch heist is planned to offer the dubious hope of salvation. Instead, a kind of under-the-table real estate deal is the difference between life or death. Fresh off The Exorcist, playwright-turned-momentary-star Jason Miller plays Cooper, an aging Mob middleman so thorough-goingly "middle" he occupies a seedy office and wears a necktie to work. He is the "keyman" - the manager of local warehouse space holding the Mob's stolen truckloads of whatever - in the old postwar business districts of L.A. that could just as easily be the neglected industrial areas of Detroit or Baltimore. He's got a young, ditzy Southern wife (Linda Haynes), a bar-owning buddy down the block (Victor French), and a neighborhood full of wannabes and friendly lowlifes. He also has a smooth and stone-hearted boss (John Hillerman), according to whom "things change," and who complains ominously about the new "corporate types" running the syndicate, who aren't pleased that Cooper is having a difficult time settling a deal for a large block of warehouses.

Through a way-subtle confluence of exchanges and hints, involving several of the syndicate's henchmen and a boxer that refuses to lie down for the easy money, Cooper becomes convinced he's becoming obsolete and is getting lined up for a fall. Things do change, a mournful and bitter idea that seeps into the film's fabric, and they often change outside of our field if vision; we don't know much better than Cooper what behind-the-scene machinations are working against him. This encourages the movie to slacken and brood, as we all wait for Cooper's fate to catch up with him.

It's really a character study in the New Wave mode - focusing on a lost soul so cagey and emotionally withholding we're left mainly with presumptions and projections. Miller, who in real life had already won his playwrighting Pulitzer and been nominated for an acting Oscar (for The Exorcist), owned a mountainside face only the '70s could love, resembling Harry Dean Stanton's muscly older brother and possessing in his tired eyes the lost look of a pilgrim coming off a decade in the desert. This is not your Dream Factory glamourpuss; Miller was a presence then because he looked and sounded like a real person, not an actor. Mulligan, nothing if not a flexible craftsman, had just come off Summer of '42 (1971) and The Other (1972), tripping from nostalgic romance to hothouse horror to despairing urban grit without a shrug. (They all do share that over-Vaselined soft-focus glow that was one of the hot styles of the '70s.) Certainly, he is awake to the needs of Eric Roth's screenplay - be wary, walk slow, trust no one. Just like Cooper.

The frill-free DVD release comes co-packaged, on two discs, with another '70s studio freak, John Frankenheimer's 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), a deliberately cartoony mob-war farce in which Richard Harris, wearing huge Randy Newman glasses and a Sally Brown pageboy haircut, is uncharacteristically cool-as-cucumber playing a hired gun caught in the middle. Campy and dated, it's just one dip in Frankenheimer's head-scratching, tempest-tossed '70s filmography.

99 And 44/100% Dead / The Nickel Ride, visit Shout Factory. To order 99 And 44/100% Dead / The Nickel Ride, go to TCM Shopping.

by Michael Atkinson
The Nickel Ride & 99 And 44/100% Dead - The Nickel Ride & 99 And 44/100% Dead - Action Double Feature From Shout! Factory

The Nickel Ride & 99 and 44/100% Dead - THE NICKEL RIDE & 99 AND 44/100% DEAD - Action Double Feature from Shout! Factory

The critical work on the American New Wave, it seems, has only just begun. Robert Altman still gets a free skate (although, truth be told, M*A*S*H isn't nearly as substantial as his other '70s films), Hal Ashby has been sanctified but Alan J. Pakula has not, and Robert Aldrich's contribution to the decade are forgotten, while the proper canonization of Monte Hellman and Barbara Loden's Wanda is paperwork still waiting to be filed. Michael Ritchie had a sharp-tongued run no one remembers, and the few fascinating films Peter Fonda directed are still cinema non grata. The era's propensity for desperate road travel and dusty realism and pitiless narrative makes it the match for the meaning of film noir, but as yet it seems more critical and academic thought has been devoted, generally, to Blade Runner and E.T., and to the least of Hitchcock films, and to the oeuvre of David Fincher. There's still so much that's left out of the discussion - for example, the '67-'77 period's genuine, humanizing and startling passion for American subcultures, be it road racing, bar life, cockfighting, country music, grunt military life, farming, moonshining, surveillance work, rodeos, construction, beauty pageants, Little League baseball, and so on. For a span, a very real America thrived on movie screens, a nation we'd never seen before on film, and for that alone the era should be reexamined with an atomic microscope. Robert Mulligan, one of the era's several Industry lions inherited from early TV and high-profile '60s hits, is certainly one of the forgotten, and his sullen 1974 wisp of a crime drama The Nickel Ride may never have been noticed at all. At the time, the film was one of a pack of nasty, urban-underbelly sagas produced in a flood after the success - d'estime and otherwise - of The French Connection (1971). (Others, so many of them worth finding then and now, include 1972's Prime Cut, 1973's The Seven-Ups, Scarecrow, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and Electra Glide in Blue, 1974's Busting, and 1975's The Yakuza.) The Nickel Ride's membership in this grungy platoon is in many ways more interesting than the film's particulars; just like noir, the small-boned, texture-intense '70s films are best considered as a cultural event in toto, as a mass expression of social anxiety and doubt. Each individual film is merely a panel in a polyptych. (Think about it: we watch real '40s-'50s noirs not for the possibility of brilliance in a certain film, but to enter into and deepen our experience with noir-ness.) All told, these films comprise a ultra-realistic, unsentimental portrait of our state of being otherwise unheard of in American film. On board with that program in every way, Mulligan's film is very conscientiously minor, unspectacular, grim, a vignette of underworld fatalism in which not even a doomed last-ditch heist is planned to offer the dubious hope of salvation. Instead, a kind of under-the-table real estate deal is the difference between life or death. Fresh off The Exorcist, playwright-turned-momentary-star Jason Miller plays Cooper, an aging Mob middleman so thorough-goingly "middle" he occupies a seedy office and wears a necktie to work. He is the "keyman" - the manager of local warehouse space holding the Mob's stolen truckloads of whatever - in the old postwar business districts of L.A. that could just as easily be the neglected industrial areas of Detroit or Baltimore. He's got a young, ditzy Southern wife (Linda Haynes), a bar-owning buddy down the block (Victor French), and a neighborhood full of wannabes and friendly lowlifes. He also has a smooth and stone-hearted boss (John Hillerman), according to whom "things change," and who complains ominously about the new "corporate types" running the syndicate, who aren't pleased that Cooper is having a difficult time settling a deal for a large block of warehouses. Through a way-subtle confluence of exchanges and hints, involving several of the syndicate's henchmen and a boxer that refuses to lie down for the easy money, Cooper becomes convinced he's becoming obsolete and is getting lined up for a fall. Things do change, a mournful and bitter idea that seeps into the film's fabric, and they often change outside of our field if vision; we don't know much better than Cooper what behind-the-scene machinations are working against him. This encourages the movie to slacken and brood, as we all wait for Cooper's fate to catch up with him. It's really a character study in the New Wave mode - focusing on a lost soul so cagey and emotionally withholding we're left mainly with presumptions and projections. Miller, who in real life had already won his playwrighting Pulitzer and been nominated for an acting Oscar (for The Exorcist), owned a mountainside face only the '70s could love, resembling Harry Dean Stanton's muscly older brother and possessing in his tired eyes the lost look of a pilgrim coming off a decade in the desert. This is not your Dream Factory glamourpuss; Miller was a presence then because he looked and sounded like a real person, not an actor. Mulligan, nothing if not a flexible craftsman, had just come off Summer of '42 (1971) and The Other (1972), tripping from nostalgic romance to hothouse horror to despairing urban grit without a shrug. (They all do share that over-Vaselined soft-focus glow that was one of the hot styles of the '70s.) Certainly, he is awake to the needs of Eric Roth's screenplay - be wary, walk slow, trust no one. Just like Cooper. The frill-free DVD release comes co-packaged, on two discs, with another '70s studio freak, John Frankenheimer's 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), a deliberately cartoony mob-war farce in which Richard Harris, wearing huge Randy Newman glasses and a Sally Brown pageboy haircut, is uncharacteristically cool-as-cucumber playing a hired gun caught in the middle. Campy and dated, it's just one dip in Frankenheimer's head-scratching, tempest-tossed '70s filmography.

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 15, 1975

Completed shooting Spring 1974.

Released in United States Fall November 15, 1975