Sunday, May 20, 2018

End of an Era

Night Moves (1975) - Penn
Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 12.27.05 PM
We've seen this before, or at least, reiteration of the same scenario time and time again: a washed up P.I. taking the job of missing daughter case from a seemingly wealthy woman in LA, and along the way, he gets embroiled in a bigger conspiracy with lots of ins and outs. It's your typical LA noir. But it's the 70s and cynicism and rudderlessness is rampant. And it's that palpable melancholy that presides over Night Moves that makes it memorable.

Harry Moresby(Gene Hackman), a two bit P.I. and a former football star, takes on the case from Arlene, a past-her-prime actress looking for her 'free spirited' teenage daughter Delly (short for Delilah "my husband was fond of biblical epics back in the day" Melanie Griffith). With a little clues given about Delly's crowd - movie stuntmen and mechanics, the case takes Harry to film sets in New Mexico then to the Florida Keys where he finds her, living under Arlene's second husband Tom and his alluring companion Paula (Jennifer Warren). The couple operates small charter plane/boat business, living in relative obscurity. Harry also has to deal with his marriage falling apart. He is trying to solve other people's lives but can't deal with his own.

There are some great scenes with Hackman and Susan Clark (Ellen Moresby) and also Warren. It's the 70s. Harry can't beat his way out of his troubles like Sam Spade used to. Dialog is terrific in that muddied up 70s way (Kennedy assassination was mentioned after seeing a dead body) instead of snappy one-liners. Sex and drugs of the counterculture is summed up in Melanie Griffith's 16 year old nude body. With all the macho posturing of rugged stuntmen and sport heros, Night Moves perfectly signals the end of an era, the way Inherent Vice or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was supposed to capture, all back in 1975 only to be revived by Reagan era action movies without any scruples. Night Moves would make a terrific double feature with The Conversation.