Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 4, 2017)
Gene Hackman reunited with Bonnie and Clyde director Arthur Penn for 1975’s Night Moves. Former pro football player Harry Moseby (Hackman) finds himself in a post-sports career as a private detective.
But not a high-end one, as Harry tends to end up with sleazy infidelity cases that require more than a few “bedroom stakeouts”. When Harry takes on the investigation of a missing teenager, though, he encounters more of a challenge, one that leads him down a murky path.
Hmm… low-rent LA private detective takes on a slippery case that leads him into more trouble than he anticipated – where have I heard that plot? Many times, but most notably, this resembles the story for 1974’s Chinatown.
In no way would I call Moves a remake or rip-off of Chinatown, but I can’t help but see connections between the two – and also wonder if the latter’s success helped push Moves into production. We get enough of a Chinatown vibe here for me to think that the genre links aided the filmmakers.
Moves isn’t regarded as a classic on the level of Chinatown, but it appears to enjoy a strong reputation. At times, it seems to live up to that notoriety, but I think Moves comes with too many flaws to qualify as a particularly strong film.
Actually, Moves starts and ends pretty well, but the long stretch in between tends to drag – and drag badly. Especially when Harry goes to Florida to locate the missing girl, we end up stuck with extended periods in which little of interest seems to happen.
Not that these scenes become totally devoid of useful material, but the sluggish pacing turns into an issue. Whatever worthwhile information we receive gets somewhat lost among the tedium, and it feels like the movie would work better if it pushed the plot along more rapidly.
Though only Hackman and Susan Clark got billing on the movie’s poster, Moves offers a decent number of recognizable names. Along with a few veterans, we see Melanie Griffith and James Woods in fairly early roles.
None of the actors flop, but I can’t claim any add much to the proceedings. Even Hackman seems a little “stuck in neutral”, as the movie’s overriding cynicism overwhelms much of the material.
At times, Night Moves threatens to spark to life, but in general, it feels a bit too aimless and slow to prosper. While I don’t think this is a bad film, I can’t quite discern the reason it maintains such a positive reputation.