Hickey & Boggs are The Ambiguously Apathetic Duo


Hickey & Boggs (1972): Breakdown by Kain424

Two Dicks try to solve a money-changing case, upgrade their arsenal, and get over their failed relationships with women.  And down as many hotdogs as a buddy-cop film will allow.


It’s hard to rate this film well, considering that there is so little action or even likable characters.  The two protagonists are down-on-their-luck private detectives who couldn’t care less if the world burned, so long as they make a profit.  However, this seems to be the point.  They aren’t supposed to be likable, or even redeemable.  This is post-war noir, with no jingoism attached.  They are worthless, tired, boozing losers who can’t even shoot straight.

This is a very dark film, filmed in bright, sunlit exteriors either for ironic effect or for budgetary reasons.  I can’t say this film is a failure, as I think it wants to be downbeat.  The problem is, it just isn’t as entertaining as it is interesting.

And it’s an interesting idea, to be sure, but I can’t help but call back to Dirty Harry, who even at his most despicable, still manages to awe with his smirking coolness.  This film may have all but invented the Buddy-Cop genre, but it’s only Walter Hill’s writing and the occasional action beat that keeps this one from melting the viewer into a state of complete and utter boredom. And it comes close.

Still, it’s cool to see Bill Cosby as a hardcore P.I.

Also, H&B showcases some early work by Ed Lauter and a young James Woods.  That alone was worth the price.



Robert Culp is Frank Boggs &  Bill Cosby is Al Hickey

As mentioned above, the idea here is not to glorify these gentlemen.  As is such, the two main characters are shown as weak, impotent, and not even batting an eye when one of their clients turns out to be a disgusting elderly fellow who gets his kicks sunbathing nearly nude while watching children play in a park.  These guys are not bad-ass at all.  At least, not in the traditional sense.  When it all finally comes down on them, the criminals engaged in firefights across the city, our two “heroes” set up and their lives nearly ruined, they aren’t the only ones who can do anything.  No.  But they are the only ones who will do anything.


A lot of the killings are simply bad guys mowing down other bad guys.  Culp and Cosby get two kills each, and three out of four of that total almost seem like a lucky happenstance.  It’s the 70s, so the real killers are still the criminals.  Most are death by gunshot, but there are also a couple lethal beatdowns.  The body count only starts stacking up near the end of the film, but I guess all that waiting had to be for something.


Cosby’s Hickey, who’s ex-wife had just agreed to see him and give him another shot at their failed life together, is beaten and/or raped and killed.  The killer is insinuated to be the mute henchman that does most of the hard work for the main antagonist.  After all of the other baddies have been gunned down or blown up, only Culp, Cosby and the mutie remain.

Hickey and Boggs watch in stony silence as the villain attempts to pull part of a destroyed helicopter from the rubble and use it as a weapon.  Boggs hands Hickey a loaded .44 after Hickey silently motions that his own is empty.  As the mute killer charges, Hickey takes aim and blasts one shot through the underused lungs of his oncoming enemy.  The result is the film’s goriest demise:


The movie’s two leads have no one else but each other.  Cosby seems content to agonize the mother of his child with his sexless presence whilst dragging Culp away from awkward lap-dances at strip clubs.  They seem to exist in between relationships, but openly stroke their guns in front of one another, all the while chowing down on hotdogs.  A lot of hotdogs.  Hotdogs and chilidogs.  I don’t know, but there might be something there.

Still, it seems more like the two guys enjoy fucking up relationships more than, well relating.  As for the film’s scenery, well remember that guy who likes to sunbathe in front of kids?  Here you go:


Women, it seems, can’t stand our protagonists.  In Hickey & Boggs, the fairer of the sexes is always shown in a negative light, so it’s no wonder that the men can’t stand them either.  Women are always seen here either yelling and scolding men, crying, or as exotic dancers, laughing in the face of cuckholded men.

It’s an evil, dark, twisted place, this one.


The epic moment comes at the end of the film, not as a rush, but as a whimper of despair.  A helicopter shot down, money-launderers shot dead with a dozen or so corpses about.  Cosby, who looks around and notices the bleak atmosphere and stunning silence, says , “Nobody came…Nobody Cares.”

The best line is also the the dark joke of the film.  Frank Boggs keeps asking, intermittently, what this case is all about, to which Al Hickey keeps telling the slightly more idealistic Frank that it’s not about anything.  At the end of the movie, after Al has noticed that no one cares about the small war that has just been waged on the beach property, he looks at Frank and says, “It’s still not about anything.”

Frank just sighs and grabs up what he wants from the ruined cars nearby.

“Yeah.  You told me.”


It’s not about anything.

[THE CHECKLIST: 14 outta 25]

[  ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[  ] Crotch Attack
[  ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[  ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[  ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[  ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[  ] Manly Embrace(s)
[  ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[  ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[  ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[  ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice

At Least We Have Each Other