You know that feeling when you play a movie and you start getting a sense it might be a good one? Well, when I played Night Moves it was late and I really wasn’t in a mood for an outdated seventies thriller. However, the reviews were good and I was looking for something different so I went with it. What I witnessed was probably one of the best neo-noir movies I have ever seen. I loved everything about it. The soundtrack was just spot on and the pacing so deliberate that you couldn’t help but immerse yourself into this story. Then, the details start hitting you. They might be small but they are sure as shit glorious. If you manage to get someone to watch the movie with you, there’s so much shit to go through.
For example, in the opening scene of Night Moves, we see private investigator Harry Moseby playing back the voicemail he received earlier. He stops and plays the tape several times to write down the important details. He doesn’t “memorize” the info or scribbles it while the tape is playing. Harry is not that sort of guy. He meticulously takes notes and sets off to solve this case. I will talk about the performances later as I want you to first get a feel for this movie. Actually, you really should stop reading this right now and check it out. Especially if you’re a fan of detective stories and noir. Oh man, oh man, are you in for a treat.
However, if you want to learn a bit more let us continue. So, we will be following PI Harry Moseby tasked with finding a missing 16-year-old girl. From there, things start to get tricky. When the movie starts you have this feeling that you’re embarking on an adventure. The showbiz environment and deceptively casual vibe further bolster that feeling. And yet there’s something foreboding in the air. This uncompromising and raw vibe suggests that Harry might be in trouble. He’s our main character, a private detective determined to “solve the case”.
Mmhmm, I almost just spoiled it all for you by going into detail about his character. I will just say that try and figure out what kind of a detective is he. Harry is just one of many great characters we will meet here. All of them are fully fleshed out and feel realistic. As I already mentioned, everything about Night Moves feels authentic and engaging. This is also a movie with a strong beginning, middle, and one hell of motherfucking ending. Like any other good noir movie, it’s thought-provoking, just sucking you into its doomed orbit. And that fucking final shot, it’s just glorious leaving you frozen and feeling strangely alive.
I guess now’s as good as time as any to talk about the magnificent cast of this movie. Gene Hackman is in a role of a lifetime and I say that fully knowing that he shot The French Connection just a couple of years earlier. He was simply captivating here with his nuanced performance. We also have the opportunity to see young James Woods here in one of his first big acting roles. And finally, the role of the missing girl is played by 16-year-old Melanie Griffith. She has several nude scenes that were shot after she turned 18 in 1875. That was her second noir movie of the year, the first one being The Drowning Pool.
I also just can’t help mentioning Janet Ward’s performance here. Just notice how she reacts when Harry asks about her missing daughter. Pure fucking brilliance. I have seen Night Moves four times in the last two years and each time I found something new to enjoy. It quickly became one of my favorite movies, one of those I bother people with. Almost fifty years old, it definitely stood the test of time and it looks and feels refreshing and authentic. It also rivals French noir movies from this period in every way, standing tall in the sea of worthless North American copies.
Night Moves gives a snapshot of life in the seventies. How people behaved and what was popular back then. Coming out of the swinging sixties, a wave of pessimism and cynicism enveloped the country. And the story is, well, I really should stop now and let you see the movie. If you’re looking for something similar, check out our Rabbit Reviews selection of Noir Movies. Enjoy.
Director: Arthur Penn
Writer: Alan Sharp
Cast: Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, Janet Ward, Melanie Griffith
Fun Facts: Harry’s car is a 1967 Ford Mustang, in the color the company named “Lime Gold”.