Night Moves Film Details
Overview: Los Angeles private investigator Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter. Moseby tracks the daughter down, only to stumble upon something much more intriguing and sinister.
Tagline: Maybe he would find the girl… maybe he would find himself.
Review: Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), LA private investigator and former NFL player, has a marital problem. He likes his loner private eye lifestyle, but his wife Ellen (Susan Clark) wants Harry to join a large detective agency. Ellen, an antiques vendor, commits adultery and even has the effrontery to take offense. But as he is able to locate people, Harry can divert from his marital problems. Harry’s front man Nick (Kenneth Mars), who collects old Mexican statuary, leads him to frumpy alcoholic Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward), a most promiscuous and aging B-grade movie actress, to retrieve her 16-year old runaway stepdaughter Delilah “Delly” Grastner (an uninhibited 16 or 17-year old Melanie Griffith during filming). Arlene’s deceased first husband was a movie mogul, the reason for her getting a few acting roles. Divorced from her second, Tom Iverson, Arlene relies on Delly for her only means of support through a trust-fund, although step-mom needs to maintain custody. Arlene tells Harry that Delly uses drugs and has a licentious lifestyle (like step-mom). Acting on a tip from mechanic Quentin (James Woods) one of Delly’s former boyfriends whom Harry tracked down, Harry heads to a filming location, where he meets stunt pilots Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns) and Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello); the latter and Quentin fought over Delly. After, during Harry’s second meeting with Arlene, he learns that he can find Delly in the Florida Keys living with her stepfather Tom Iverson (John Crawford) a charter pilot. In Florida Harry finds Delly, who is staying with Iverson and Paula (Jennifer Warren). Harry soon becomes aware that Tom is involved with smuggling of some kind. Tom tells Harry that he wants Delly to return to her stepmother. We later learn that Tom “got foolish” with Delly. “There oughta be a law,” he says to the investigator. Harry retorts, “There is.” SPOILERS BEGIN: Meanwhile we are immersed in a convoluted plot, not always well explained, about smuggling $500,000 worth of Yucatan art treasures and murder. One night during a boating trip in Iverson’s boat (“Point of View”), skinny-dipping Delly locates a crashed airplane with a dead pilot inside, his face eaten away by fish. (We later learn that it is Marv; observe he is no longer seen on the film.) Paula lies to Harry that she placed a float to mark the spot for the Coast Guard. In reality she wants to help Tom locate and move the sunken smuggled artifacts. Paula lies often. Now Harry loves chess. He tells Paula about a 1922 game (Germany) where Black had a checkmate over White with a Queen sacrifice and three follow up moves with Knights: “He played something else and he lost. He must have regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have.” Will Harry be like him and not see the correct moves until it is too late? The movie title can metaphorically morph to “Knight Moves.” Anyway at night Paula makes a move on Harry, but it is really a diversion for Tom to get away and move the downed artifacts. During the same night skittish Delly has a nightmare, after which she demands to be taken home. Back in LA Delly argues with Arlene, and Harry’s wife Ellen still has her lover. Then Ellen hears that Delly died while filming an on-location stunt with Joey Ziegler. Was she put away purposely? Probably she naively blabbed her discovery to the wrong folks. Anyway, Ziegler himself was injured and has his right arm in a full, extended cast. Did Quentin tamper with the prop car or even Marv’s crashed airplane? He denies everything, but tells Harry that Marv was the dead pilot. In any case Arlene does not morn the deceased Delly. Later Harry seems to reconcile with Ellen. Back in Florida, Harry finds Quentin’s body floating in the water off Iverson’s dock. A man is seen nearby in a powerboat moving quickly. Harry, noting that Tom killed Quentin, pulls a handgun on Tom and Paula. There is a subsequent fist-fight, after which Tom’s head strikes hard against a post (cold-cocked or dead). From Paula Harry gathers that Marv, Tom, Quentin, and Paula were involved in smuggling statues from the Yucatan. Marv’s job was to fly them into the US and deliver them to Tom and Paula in Florida. Tom and Paula brought them to another who sold them to Nick. Perhaps Nick (who supposedly – but falsely – does not know Ziegler) got the original assignment to Harry to return Delly home before she could somehow interfere with the operation. On Tom’s boat Harry and Paula put out to sea to find the submerged airplane and sunken artifacts. At the site, while Paula dives below, a seaplane intercepts them and the pilot fires a submachine gun, wounding Harry. As the airplane lands on the water Paula is struck and killed. But as the pilot also struck a hard statue, the airplane crashes with him going underwater. Drowning, Ziegler (Joey, whom Harry trusted!) seems to apologize to Harry. The entire operation was apparently Ziegler’s. With the body count rising and with things getting too dangerous, Ziegler was probably trying to unload Tom (and Paula). Harry is alone as the boat curls around in circles. He never understood the events that swirled around him until it was too late. As he previously told Paula, “I didn’t solve anything. This just fell in on top of me.” Poor Harry! The movie is one of the better ones of the early 1970s, when happy endings were not always the norm. For instance, “Five Easy Pieces,” “Deliverance,” “The Gambler,” “Don’t Look Now,” and “The Parallax View” all come to mind. “Night Moves” is so constructed around Gene Hackman that he appears in every scene and does very well. The actor is able to get our sympathy and support, even though he is not a Bogart-type of detective. This film probably requires multiple viewings to aid in one’s comprehension.
Language: English, Spanish, French
Duration: 100 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
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