CRIMEWATCH: Hickey & Boggs
In 1972, Robert Culp (Hannie Caulder) directed this neo-noir crime film set in Los Angeles. Culp co-wrote the screenplay with Walter Hill who would make his directorial debut with Hard Times (1975). Culp also cast his longtime friend and I Spy series co-star Bill Cosby in the role of Hickey.
In Hickey and Boggs, Frank Boggs (Robert Culp) and Al Hickey (Bill Cosby) are two low rent private investigators who are barely scraping by working around L.A.. When Hickey gets a new assignment from a man named Rice, they become entangled in a crime involving a mysterious woman named Mary Jane (Carmen).
We learn that Mary Jane has been part of a robbery in Pittsburgh and then arrives in L.A.. When Hickey is called to investigate the whereabouts of the woman, things start to get crazy. Hickey returns to the office and explains to Boggs they’re back in business with a $500 dollar advance from their new client. They start looking for leads on the woman which brings Hickey to an apartment of one of the her contacts, only he’s dead. Hickey then goes to the police and explains to Lt. Papadakis (Vincent Gardenia) and his partner Shaw (Jack Colvin) about the dead body. The police decide to set up a security watch on the apartment. Hickey gets into the place after telling the guard he’s working with the police and he then does some investigating of his own.
Hickey and Boggs trace another lead in the city, but soon after they arrive, a gang of men known to them as ‘The Torpedoes’ are looking for the same person. When Hickey and Boggs get cornered in the apartment, they climb out onto the fire escape while the Torpedoes toss the place. Before leaving, as an insurance policy, Boggs lights a rag on fire which he places in the hitman’s car gas tank. As they drive off, the Torpedoes exit from the apartment building and the car explodes. The Torpedoes are working for a mob boss named Mr Brill (Robert Mandan). Brill was supposed to be getting the stolen robbery money, but was jilted and now he has his goons out looking for Mary Jane. Brill’s partner is Ballard (Michael Moriarty).
Hickey and Boggs’ main clue is a paper that reads the name of a football stadium and a seating arrangement. When they goto the football game, they stay awhile afterwards and wait to see if their hunch is right. Turns out Mary Jane is there to meet The Torpedoes with the money, but Hickey and Boggs get in the middle of the exchange and all hell breaks loose. A shootout ensues with one of the baddies and an Uzi firing and he almost kills Hickey.
Brill finds out about Hickey and Boggs trying to solve the case and he and his hitmen aren’t going to play nice. They break into Boggs’ place and trash it and when Hickey goes to visit his girlfriend, he finds her home trashed and her dead body. Hickey is completely shocked and he can’t even talk when Boggs meets him at their local bar hangout. This is definitely one of the best scenes in the film as Boggs tries to convince Hickey they need to get revenge and make things right between them and the killers. The big ending takes place at the beach with the hitmen and Hickey and Boggs try to both get ahold of Mary Jane and her husband before they take off to Mexico.
What I liked most about this film was it’s not your typical Hollywood action vehicle, it’s more of a downbeat, realistic scenario based around the feelings and personal lives of the characters. It is a sunbaked LA crime film (similar to something like Altman’s The Long Goodbye) with a great cast and wonderful lead acting by Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. Note: Look for a very early on-screen appearance by a young James Woods as Lt. Wyatt.