Knight Moves (Arrow Recommends)

Knight Moves (Arrow Recommends)
7 10

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: Top dog chess player Peter Sanderson (Christopher Lambert) is forced to play a different kind of game when a serial killer begins to kill hot young women, leaving clues for him at the crime scenes and giving him chilling 411 phone calls. Or is Sanderson in fact the murderer playing a warped game on everybody cause he’s got some serious f-ing issues? That’s up to the law to find out i.e. Daniel Baldwin’s slick hair and Tom Skerrit’s killer stache!

“You see your goal and go after it. Anything that gets in the way is an obstacle and must be destroyed. " - Peter

LOWDOWN: I’m on a plane right now, on my way to LA. While there I will have my annual chess tournaments with my bro Eric Red (who always kicks my ass). So it got me in the mood for a creepy chess movie. Sadly they are scarce. But then I remembered the 1992 KNIGHT MOVES (ON DVD HERE), which is probably the ONLY serial killer flick ever made set around the wondrous game that is chess. Thankfully, I had it on my laptop.  I hadn’t seen the film in eons but I remembered digging it enough on the big screen (as opposed to all the critics who took a big steamy dump on it at the time) to have a dub of it on VHS.

Good news is; I thoroughly enjoyed my KNIGHT MOVES re-visit and it actually took me aback as to how well it played its mind numbing game on me. Starring Christophe Lambert (who also acted as Executive Producer) in his dashing Highlander days (all about that hair baby), the movie couldn’t have asked for better casting in light of its M.O. You see at its core, this one is a “red herring” filled whodunit and in a bold move, the main suspect is our hero.  You don’t see that everyday and it worked aces! Lambert’s distant stare (he has extreme myopia in real life and can’t see without glasses – he’s acting blind) and his character’s detached and self absorbed behavior made sure to keep me on my twinkle toes in terms of the “Is it him or isn’t it him?” game I was put through till the bitter end (thank Crom I had forgotten the outcome). 

I also have to commend the screenplay by Brad Mirman! The story was appealing; it sported mucho twisted ideas (the manner in which the killer left the bodies), appealing (if not a bit too stereotype-ish) characters and all kinds of topsy-turvy twists cannoned my way. Moreover, Carl Schenkel went all out visually (dug the film-noir-ish mood), he displayed a firm handle on his suspense bits while his approach to sexuality was fairly unrepentant (of course every victim looked like a model and had to get in their undergarments before getting the axe). It should be stabbed that Lambert and the criminally talented/gorgeous Diane Lane were married at the time hence their under the sheets get-down was fairly graphic and sizzled my screen to smithereens! I had forgotten that in the 90’s every hump bit came off as softcore porn. Thanks for the reminder Knight Moves!

And now that I think of it, the whole spiel somewhat reminded me of something that Dario Argento would have spat out during his hey-days (Tenebra comes to mind) but minus the zany camera movements and the over the top bloodshed. If the old school Argento would remake this one today we’d be in for quite a cinematic treat. Add to all that: entertaining performances by Daniel Badlwin (ideal grease ball cop) and Tom Skerrit (playing Tom Skerrit…again… love that role), a procedural vibe that greased me right, a unrepentant mean streak and enough chess analogies to make this fan of the game happy and you get a well oiled and effective psycho thriller that should be tapped at least once.  

On the sour side, yeah the thing stuck to the thriller 101 mold a tad too much in places (the usual fake scare/real scare beats - exposition charged killer monologue etc.) And was it me or was the hero’s “dead wife” backstory ta bit far-fetched (never heard of a divorce)? Finally, the obligatory love story between our two leads felt forced as they often did in 90’s thrillers. Although to be fair it did add tension to the proceedings and a healthy dose of sexy-time.

It’s no SEVEN, but KNIGHT MOVES was still the shit and deserves way more love than it got then or that it's getting now! And while I'm at it, If you’re craving a double dose of Lambert/serial killer action, allow me to recommend that you watch this one back to back with Russell Mulcahy’s 1999 RESURRECTION (also written by Brad Mirman). Another underrated genre gem. YOUR MOVE!

PS: I just realized that the last 5 movies I recommended got a 7 on 10. Got  to up my game for the next one! I'll be back.



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