September 6, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: NIGHT MOVES (1975)

Starring Gene Hackman, Susan Clark, Jennifer Warren, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Janet Ward, Anthony Costello, James Woods, Melanie Griffith, Kenneth Mars. Directed by Arthur Penn. (1975, 100 min).

Night Moves is another film that, despite its director and star, never found an audience during its initial release. Is it a lost classic? Not quite, but it does showcase another great performance by Gene Hackman.

Then again, when hasn't Hackman been great? Even the bad ones he's appeared in are never really his fault. That's not to say Night Moves is a bad movie. Far from it. Maybe initial audiences were expecting more of a standard thriller than an atmospheric character study. Despite a murder mystery thrown into the mix relatively late in the story, this is mostly about Harry Moseby (Hackman), an ex-football player, now a private detective who's been hired by a has-been starlet to locate her wayward, free-spirited daughter, Delly (Melanie Griffith, in her debut).

"Goddammit, someone took the last YooHoo!"
Harry meets a variety of eccentric folks along the way, some who are in the movie business, others eking out a living on the Florida coast. But all of them have some sort of connection to Delly. Harry's also trying to come to terms with his cheating wife (Susan Clark) and her lover (Harris Yulin), which forces him to re-examine his own life. If it sounds like film noir from the 40s, that was undoubtedly director Arthur Penn's intention.

As such, it's a leisurely-but-enjoyable ride peppered with interesting characters, including a quirky early performance by James Woods (he hasn't changed much since). The movie belongs to Hackman, though. I don't know if the role was created for him, but he embodies Harry's world-weary cynicism perfectly.

Night Moves has grown in stature over the years, though it's hardly a cinema milestone compared to Hackman & Penn's previous collaboration, Bonnie and Clyde. Still, Hackman is compulsively watchable, as usual, and as a solid mid-70s' spin on classic noir, it's an interesting curiosity worth rediscovery. 

FEATURETTE: "The Day of the Director" (Vintage behind-the-scenes promo documentary)

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