Old 07-21-2009, 04:59 PM
Arthur Penn's Night Moves

Night Moves (1975)

Arthur Penn's "Night Moves" is one of those films that feels like it's trying to be a film noir, except that the dialogue is not nearly clever enough, nor is it particularly dark. But what is perhaps most disappointing of all is that the mysteries of the film are thrown completely out of whack, leading to a film that doesn't know what it really wants to be about.

At the very beginning of the film, we meet a private eye Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) who is given a case that involves tracking down Delly (Melanie Griffith), the runaway daughter of Arleen Iverson (Janet Ward), a retired actress who has been married twice with one husband having died and the other leaving to live in Florida. Moseby uses his detective skills to question those that know Delly, including a mechanic, Quentin (James Woods), and a stuntman, Marv (Anthony Costello). After not having much luck with them, he tries the home of her stepfather, Tom Iverson (John Crawford), where he finds her. However, this is not the end of the story as the film eventually gets around to a murder mystery involving the mysterious death of two characters.

One of this film's biggest problems was the use of its mystery aspects. The mystery of the missing girl is solved in about the first half-hour, which sets up a second act that does nothing but meander. In fact, aside from one key scene involving the discovery of one of the bodies, it could have been entirely cut out.

When I mentioned in the synopsis that it eventually gets around to the murder mystery, that was no joke. The film waits until about the last 15 minutes to set it up, which leaves no time for the audience to begin figuring it out for themselves before the film starts explaining to us exactly what happened and who was connected with who. I don't know about you all, but I find half the fun of a mystery comes from trying to deduce it for myself.

The first act also had its share of problems, mainly the inclusion of a side plot that has Harry's wife, Ellen (Susan Clark), cheating on him with Marty Heller (Harris Yulin). This side plot added nothing to the film at all and didn't help develop the characters either. However, the lack of character development wasn't only in Clark's character.

Many of the other characters aren't developed very far either, including Tom Iverson and another friend of Harry's who was present when one of the deaths occurred. Both of them end up being somewhat important characters, but it becomes hard to place them in a line of suspects when we end up knowing nothing about them.

The ending itself was rather ridiculous. The events that occur just didn't seem plausible. I don't want to get too much into it but I'll just say that it seems rather hard to believe that a small airplane on the water could not see a large statue floating on a raft in front of it. Another annoying part of the end comes from the fact that one of the characters is thrown in as being part of the mystery when there was no clear tie between him and the murder, but now, because he is present at the end and trying to kill Harry, we have to suddenly believe he's involved, despite how random it is.

There was so much more the filmmakers could have done with this film. The mystery of Delly's running away could have been stretched out more so that it could have been a little more interesting. Likewise, the murder mystery could have been started a lot earlier, like back in the uneventful second act, giving the audience more time to put it together rather than just having the solution (and the set up) dumped in our lap in the last 15 minutes.

The film certainly had potential, but quickly lost its way and unfortunately didn't begin to find it until is was far too late. Alan Sharp, author of the screenplay, mostly has television credits under his belt, and no really well-known titles at all. Perhaps, in the end, that's what gave this the feeling of a TV movie of the week. 2/4 stars.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump