Cited by many critics as one of the best and most important American movies of the 1970s, Arthur Penn's Night Moves hasn't stood the test of time in terms of popularity. The legacy of the nouvelle vague in France had inspired a whole generation of American film-makers to try new things, and to subvert genres as much as the studios would allow them. This led to a re-emergence of the film noir, a genre stuck very much in the 1940s and 50s. With its chain-smoking, loose- skinned leading men and devilish, glamorous ladies, its tough demeanour is very much a product of the time. A couple of decades later, and filmmakers such as Roman Polanski, with Chinatown, and Robert Altman, with The Long Goodbye, found new ways to explore this dark world and its shady characters, and are widely remembered for it. But no film has been as successful at cutting to the heart of what drives these self- loathing deadbeats and the manipulating bombshells distracting them as Arthur Penn's Night Moves.
Private investigator and former American football star Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) works freelance, preferring to gulp down coffees during long stakeouts on his own time than to be on the payroll of a larger agency. His wife Ellen (Susan Clark) tries to shake him out of his stubborn ways, but he's just an old-fashioned sort of guy. This lone wolf approach is in his blood, as after he turns down Ellen's invitation to the cinema, he monitors the situation anyway, discovering that his wife is having an affair in the process. Meanwhile, former actress Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) hires Harry to track down her missing, promiscuous daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith). A conversation with mechanic Quentin (James Woods) leads Harry to a thrill-seeking movie stuntman, and then to the Florida Keys, where he discovers Delly hiding out with her stepfather Tom Iverson (John Crawford), and a striking woman named Paula (Jennifer Warren).
As a straight-forward detective story, Night Moves will likely divide an audience. With its unhurried approach and eagerness to explore Harry's troubled home-life and self-destructive behaviour, the jarring tones may not suit everybody's tastes. Night Moves is much more about the character than the case he is on. The movie mainly succeeds in this balancing act because of the performance of Gene Hackman, an actor working at the very top of his game. In the 70s, he was part of a group of actors who rebelled against Hollywood gloss, and portrayed real people in real situations. Harry is ultimately a good-hearted guy, tragically failing to see the irony when he demonstrates his knowledge of 'check mate' moves in chess to Paula, with sight of own possible fate in the unravelling mystery. As the plot moves on and Harry finds himself caught up in far more than he had bargained for, the revelations become increasingly confusing. But I didn't care: It's the kind of convolution warmly embraced by the Coen Brothers in neo-noir The Big Lebowski. It isn't a masterpiece, but Night Moves deserves to be remembered as one of the most important American movies of its decade.
Crime / Mystery / Thriller
Crime / Mystery / Thriller
Private detective and former football player Harry Moseby gets hired on to what seems a standard missing person case, as a former Hollywood actress whose only major roles came thanks to being married to a studio mogul wants Moseby to find and return her daughter. Harry travels to Florida to find her, but he begins to see a connection between the runaway girl, the world of Hollywood stuntmen, and a suspicious mechanic when an unsolved murder comes to light.
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August 17, 2017 at 11:52 PM