Tuesday, June 23, 2015
When I stumbled across the movie Night Moves on Turner Classic the other day, I was mostly attracted by the fact it was a detective movie from the middle 70's which I'd never seen nor heard of. I had no idea this movie had any kind of reputation at all, but it turns out it does indeed. Classed as a "film noir" this movie does offer up a gang of characters who are hard to like and even more difficult to pity.
The plot is at once simple and confusing. In a nutshell a has-been footballer named Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) operates a failing one-man detective agency and gets the job to locate a runaway sixteen-year-old (Melanie Griffith) at about the same time he learns that his wife (Susan Clark) is cheating on him. He finds the girl in the Florida Keys but also finds some trouble and some romance with a lady named Paula (Jennifer Warren). Then things get even stickier and even more dangerous.
That's the sum total, but believe me it's an ambling journey to cover that territory. The problem with this movie is that the mystery doesn't seem to be the center of the interest either of the director nor the characters. It mostly functions as a device to throw a bunch of disillusioned characters together so they can mope and share out how disappointing their lives seem to be.
Director Arthur Penn seems to want to say something about the dissolute nature of modern society, and the script by Alan Sharp gives him ample opportunity. Sharp wrote the script for one of my favorite westerns, a Burt Lancaster vehicle titled Ulzana's Raid. I took a close look at that movie here. Night Moves seems also to be a movie which uses its genre trappings to offer up commentary on then modern society, and a bleak outlook it is indeed.
I cannot recommend this movie really. It's a little bit duller than it ought to be but I do think for anyone who might want to watch a period film with some real distinctive flavor this one fits the bill nicely. Here is some more on the character Harry Moseby and here is a fascinating article on the writer Alan Sharp.