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L.A. detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) has problems. Missing persons and bedroom stakeouts are no match for his glory days as a pro football player. His wife is having a not-so-secret affair. And while sorting things out, he takes on the case of a runaway teenager that may be a lot more than he can handle. Director Arthur Penn, who worked with Hackman on Bonnie and Clyde and Target, guides this spellbinding, first-rate thriller where solutions to murderous riddles don’t come easily. Joining Hackman and Penn are two actors just starting out on the road to stardom: James Woods and Melanie Griffith. The stars come out – and so does the excitement – when the Night Moves.
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As I watched "Night Moves" I couldn't help but wonder how it would have played out in another era like the 90's. Perhaps directed by David Fincher and some looming questions of identity or some such. That would have been interesting but "Night Moves" wouldn't have needed it to be unique. When I say "unique" I'm not saying that it's a must see film but it is definitely its own kind of movie. If you like different movies this would be advisable. If you like PI stories it has that in spades (pun not intended). There is no doubt that it is inspired by "The Maltese Falcon" even referencing Same Spade at one point. Some PI movies might have tried that and I would have deemed them unworthy but "Night Moves" is more than worthy to claim its inspiration. In fact if I made a movie and it inspired a film of "Night Moves" caliber I would have been flattered.
For the record I am a Gene Hackman lover. I always enjoy his performances and he is wonderful in this. To prove my point, any other actor that delivered the line "and your erect nipples," regardless of context, would have had to deliver the line ironically because it would be sure to garner laughs or at least be a mood killer in a very serious scene of revelation. Not Hacks though! He can make that line to be taken very seriously. What a treasure he is (you will be missed Mr. Hackman)!
The ending was pure brutality. A great reveal along with some scenes that made my wife cover her eyes. I was surprised by how realistic and graphic it was. I must comment that the end was cut well. Actually all actions scenes were guided with an expert hand.
It did however suffer some from pacing issues and the music was just way too happy. This is a character struggling with inner demons, serious marital problems, and existential questions but the music makes one want to skip through a lilly field in bell bottoms.
Overall this was my kind of movie. I would just say that it did also suffer from expositive complexity. The more a movie can show me the better and it occasionally got bogged down in verbal details.
-competent director and editor
-complexities that were very good and offer re-watchablity
-graphic and realistic violence
-very solid ending that draws from the narrative rather than forcing a reinterpretation (although if done right that can be a good thing)
-some pacing issues
-complexities that were bad and require too much attention to dialogue
-characters all had extravagant back grounds to a quite unrealistic degree
As a side I'd like to say that 1975 has been a treasure trove of great film making for the exception of one which I am trying to forget.
If you like Gene Hackman, this DVD is worth adding to your collection. Although the story and situations within are pretty far outside the bounds of realistic and the plot will sometimes leave your head spinning, it's worth a view. By the way, Night Moves is supposed to refer to a chess sequence that is discussed in the movie, so it might be more aptly titled Knight Moves.