Night Moves

1975, Movie, R, 100 mins


This excellent contemporary noir features some of the best work of both director Arthur Penn and actor Gene Hackman. Hackman is a small-time private eye working in Los Angeles. Fading movie actress Ward hires him to find Griffith, her wild teenage daughter who has run off to the Florida Keys to be with her stepfather, Crawford, and his mistress, Warren. Hackman finds the girl easily and returns her to her mother, but the next day she is killed in an accident while filming a stunt for a movie. After watching footage of the accident, Hackman becomes convinced Griffith was murdered, and the clues lead him back to the Florida Keys. Although the mystery itself is at times confusing and ultimately pointless, NIGHT MOVES is wholly engrossing and thematically rich, with much material reflecting the disillusionment of post-Watergate America. In particular, Penn and screenwriter Sharp are out to revise the mythos of the private eye; here, no longer a Chandleresque knight-errant, he's an impotent anachronism--by the time he solves the mystery it's too late to do anything about it. The last shot, with Hackman circling aimlessly in a boat called the "Point of View," says it all. The film marked the feature debut of 17-year-old Melanie Griffith. Especially interesting when viewed as a forerunner to Francis Coppola's THE CONVERSATION, also starring Hackman as a character named Harry. leave a comment

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