Mickey One could be described as a study in regeneration, but the screenplay is overloaded with symbolic gestures which obscure the main objectives of the plot.
Title character is a one-time top nitery comic who has been leading an extravagant life, getting mixed up with dames and gamblers. In a bid to get away from his past and start afresh, he assumes the identity of a Pole whose name is conveniently abbreviated to Mickey One. He gradually drifts back to the world of night clubs, and in a sleazy West Chicago joint rediscovers the art of wowing an audience.
To this point, the plot develops reasonably smoothly and the few touches of symbolism are not entirely unacceptable. Thereafter, however, symbolism runs riot, occasionally to the point of pretentiousness.
Arthur Penn must accept his share of responsibility for the confused style and bewildering nature of the more obscure sequences. But in his main intention he is powerfully backed by Warren Beatty, who gives a commanding, though highly mannered, performance – a consistently dominating study of a man who lives in fear of his past.