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Night Moves Reviews

Page 1 of 8
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

March 3, 2008
God, I love this film! I watched it last night for the first time in years. It's one that always gets an honourable mention in those lists of the great movies that nobody went to see on first release. Thirty-seven years on, it feels and is paced more like a small character piece than a thriller, but I imagine Warner Bros. had reasonably high commercial hopes for it when it was greenlit, just four years on from Gene Hackman's Oscar-snaffling turn in The French Connection, eight from director Arthur Penn's phenomenal - and phenomenally successful - Bonnie and Clyde.

Sometimes you see these neglected gems and it's completely baffling how they failed to find an audience at the time, but with Night Moves I can sort of understand how it slipped through the net. And it's not surprising that the film's critical stock began to rise with the advent of home video, when it became possible to re-examine atypically rich examples of cinema to ones heart's content. In my experience, if there's one thing an audience cannot stand it's a movie that makes them feel stupid, and, simply put - and I don't mean this as a criticism, as the effect is certainly intentional - Night Moves is probably the most forbiddingly opaque and ambiguous thriller of the 1970s.

Honestly, if you're one of those people who hates loose ends and likes a nice pat denouement, do yourself a favour and stay well clear of this because it will drive you up the wall! The first time you watch it, it's largely incoherent; the characters and their respective motivations emerge more clearly with each subsequent viewing, but there's still no getting away from the fact that no matter how many times you watch it, the movie remains a riddle without a solution, or rather a riddle with any number of different solutions.

R.I.P. Bruce Surtees, director of photography, 1937-2012
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

March 4, 2008
Everything is low key about this film, until the last thirty minutes when the plot violently unravels. As other great neo noirs of its type, it confronts a man with old fashioned morals and mentality with hypocrite modern day world. Gene Hackman gives another stelar performance.
Matheus C

Super Reviewer

June 23, 2011
An interesting neo-noir thriller but that is not near the masterpiece some critics make it be. Doesn't hold a candle to Arthur Penn's real masterpiece, "Bonnie and Clyde"

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
An interesting, but unfortunately predictable mystery movie. It has potential, but it doesn't go as far as it needs to.

Super Reviewer

November 29, 2007
this is an underseen neo-noir with typically great performance by gene hackman. with a young james brooks and a very young melanie griffith. arthur penn 1922-2010, director of bonnie and clyde, little big man and the miracle worker, rip.
Chris G

Super Reviewer

July 25, 2010
Gene Hackman continued his run of following up The French Connection with Night Moves, a modern noir tale where there is more going on than what the surface shows us. Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a retired NFL player who works as a private investigator. He takes the jobs the big agencies don't want, for example an ex movie star (Janet Ward) is searching for her runaway daughter. Harry gets the job. The thing is that Harry's problems go beyond the case. His wife (Susan Clark) is fooling around on him, leaving him to his work and only his work. The case leads him to Florida where he finds teenage Delly (Melanie Griffith) and Paula (Jennifer Warren), an eccentric resident of the Keys who attracts the curiosity of Harry. It's in Florida that the case begins to go beyond a simple runaway.

Night Moves owes a debt to the old days, where the private dick was always in way over his head and love was never his strong suit. Hackman's portrayal is one of being coy to being naive. His life is a roller coaster of emotion that never gets back to the station to let on a new batch of people. This is Harry's ride until the very end and even as the credits roll you're just not sure how Harry is going to wind up- on his feet or in the ditch.

Though not as probing as Taxi Driver, Night Moves can be considered a prime example of mid-1970's film making. There's a feel about moves made between Kent State and Star Wars. The general feeling in films was that either A) No one could be a hero or B) The hero wins, but doesn't win. Aftereffects of Vietnam? Watergate? Who knows, but there is a general tone in this era that Night Moves is also stamped with, combining with the noir aspect of the pathetic detective helps this film be better than it could have been.

Super Reviewer

April 9, 2010
Compact 70's noir has an customarily excellent performance by Gene Hackman aided by equally strong ones from Jennifer Warren and Susan Clark. Melanie Griffith is okay in her first role but her part isn't really that much. The musical score, particularly at the beginning, is dreadful.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

May 6, 2007
Really great Post Modern Neo Noir. Reminiscent of the Long Goodbye, but less funny and more grizzled.

Super Reviewer

May 28, 2007
Great, underseen flick.

Super Reviewer

November 15, 2011
Noir is such a provocative genre. There are so many likable characteristics about it. Each noir film has an underlying meaning, and they all deal with dark themes: greed, murder, corruption. It's impossible not to enjoy watching a mystery as it unfolds.

Arthur Penn's Night Moves is good example of noir, but it isn't a fantastic film. Why? The story is intriguing enough and it certainly holds many of the traits found in film noir, but it just doesn't have the "oomph" that it needs. You understand what I mean? Night Moves is a good film, but it needs to be a great film. With a story like this, it has to be.

I don't blame the cast or really even the direction. In fact, I'm not sure who to blame. Just know that the blame goes to someone, even if that someone doesn't have a face. This film is just a slight tick above average, when it should be powerful. It's a film about morals, family morals. The message is there, black and white. But Night Moves just doesn't have the... Well, I'm done trying to explain.

Gene Hackman continues to impress me with these younger roles. He is a fine actor and I see that now. His work nowadays doesn't really even being to compare with his 70's and 80's filmography. Here in Night Moves, his performance is one of the most attractive things. It's one of the best things that this film has to offer.

Just don't go into Night Moves with high expectations, like the critics will get you to believe with their 4/4 star ratings. This is not a fabulous picture. This is not even a great noir. It's a good noir, and watch it because of that. There's no real mystery to look for.

It's just all in the message. And that's what counts.
Sean G

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2011
I really enjoyed this, however, there were several holes in the plot. Why doesn't Moseby go back and finish listening to his answering machine after the character dies? He had cut off the playback of their message mid plot-revealing sentence when his estranged wife drops in for make-up sex. He even reminds himself later that it was the last contact that he had had with the deceased. It was very difficult to identify the character flying the plane at the end. Speaking of the ending, there really isn't one, just a lot of dead and dying with no hint if Moseby will survive.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

June 28, 2014
Even if the domestic problems plaguing Hackman's character seem a bit forced, all the stuff about him trying desperately to inhabit the role of a hard boiled Private Eye and failing is fascinating. Also, its got one hell of an ending.
Critique Threatt
Critique Threatt

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2010
Night Moves is the best film I have ever seen. It is classic neo-noir storytelling right from the get-go, with uncanny performances and with a completely gut wrenching ending. Harry Moseby(Gene Hackman) is on to find a missing girl which then takes him on a trip to the Florida Keys where he starts to find out that there is more secrets at hand with the people he is associating around with. Plus to make matters worst his wife Ellen(Susan Clark) is cheating on him. One of Arthur Penn's best films and definetly my fav of all time.

Another review by an imdb user who goes by the name of Keith. Best review imo.


Nick (Kenneth Mars) is a collector of pre-Columbian artifacts, illegal to obtain. He buys these items from stunt director Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns) who has a neat operation going on using stuntmen to get them from Yucatan. Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello) flies them into the US and drops them off in Florida to be picked up by Tom Iverson and Paula.

All is fine until Tom's stepdaughter Dilly (Melanie Griffith) leaves her mother, Arleen (Janet Ward), to go live with him. This upsets Nick as a horny teenager might ruin the deal they have going on. Therefore, he makes Arleen hire Harry Moseby to fetch her back. Arleen needs to have Dilly back to get her monthly alimony.

Harry finds Dilly in Florida in no time. Things go wrong when Marv has an accident and dies while transporting an artifact. During a dive, Dilly finds the plane and recognizes Marv. Tom (John Crawford) and Paula (Jennifer Warren) tell Harry they'll call the coast guard, but don't for obvious reasons. Harry takes Dilly back to LA.

Dilly tells her friends Quentin (James Woods) and Joey that the corpse she saw during the dive was Marv's. She's a dangerous witness to Joey, who gets her killed during a stunt.

Quentin smells something fishy and goes to Florida to investigate. Tom kills him.

Harry goes to Florida to investigate too, beats Tom senseless and discovers half this plot from Paula. He makes Paula take him out on a boat ride to the submerged plane. While Paula is diving to retrieve the artifact, Joey shows up flying a plane and kills Paula, then tries to kill the boat owner, Tom. It got too dangerous for Joey - he wants to get rid of all his team. He doesn't know it's Harry on the boat instead of Tom. As his plane is sinking he kind of apologizes to Harry. Then again, since Joey killed Dilly, I don't think he'd have any problems offing Harry too.

Harry is left alone, on a boat that's going round in circles and is angry with himself for not seeing this plot sooner. As Harry had said about that chess player, "He didn't see it. He played something else and he lost. He must have regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have." If he is rescued, he'll regret this case for the rest of his life...
Stephen E

Super Reviewer

November 29, 2011
"Night Moves" is worth a watch simply because of its noir-like plot and impressive lead performance from Gene Hackman. Arthur Penn's direction is unbalanced in areas and his overall treatment of an otherwise decent screenplay isn't outstanding, but the film has individual moments where it shines. "Night Moves" is muddled and technically subpar, but it's one of those 70s relics that's worth at least a single viewing.
Tom S

Super Reviewer

December 5, 2010
"...your erect nipples!"
November 22, 2011
A 1970s modern day film noir about a below average private investigator hired to find a missing teenage girl. The character study of Harry is yet another great performance by Gene Hackman. Always a pleasure to watch him work. Susan Clark and Jennifer Warren are both strong as well against Hackman and it was fun to see young James Woods and Melanie Griffith in supporting roles. This isn't a perfect movie. There are a couple of head-scratching moments like why Harry doesn't go back to listen to his answering machine after the girl dies and why if Harry is so upset about his wife's adultery does he commit it himself. But overall, buoyed by strong performances and good direction, Night Moves is worth the watch. Recommend.
January 16, 2011
An excellent neo-noir which is surprisingly little known. Gene Hackman is great (one of his best performances) as a washed-up PI who investigates a case that is way over his head. The story is told entirely from his point of view, so at times the audience is as confused as he is. The movie stays true to the noir genre all the way through the end, and the ending is quite bleak, which is probably one of the reasons it didn't receive the publicity it truly deserves.
November 9, 2010
This film takes some raves for its study of Hackman's flawed character and for its clever confronting of viewers with their own bumbling as sleuthers.

It does do both well. But history will probably best remember it for the gratuitous one-second topless shot of then 18-year-old Melanie Griffith, a run-away Lolita whom an untalented PI (Hackman) is hired to find. (Other brief full frontal shots appear to be uncredited body-double work.)

Griffith here earns tenth billing and her first credited role. Neither she, nor out-of-the-gate James Woods as young punk, exhibit their future promise. However newbie Warren, as Hackman's enigmatic romp-on-the-side, delivers well.

Hackman spends Act 1 eventually "finding" Griffith via three inquiries, subtly revealing he's not exactly the stuff of stellar sleuthing. Plus Hackman's marriage is going over the edge - and he's fumbling the ball.

In Act 2, Hackman marks time with Griffith and her new pals. The viewer knows something odd's a-brewing, but what? Hackman's clueless. On point, Hackman's seen studying a chess game where Black overlooks a clever knights-based corner mate. Hackman knows only too well the lifetime of misery missing such "knight moves" can cause.

Act 3 suddenly morphs to murder and moves fast tying all together - faster than Hackman (or most viewers) can devine. Hackman doesn't quit smart at 'case closed,' and so ends up running in circles, cursing his out-of-wedlock heritage, his failure at husbandry and his mediocrity as detective.

The script's pale imitation of noir and the derivative 1960s/1970s 'detective-loner' genre - McQ, Bullitt, Harper, Rockford Files, Mannix et. al. Dialogue's often weak; all but Hackman are handicapped by it.

And the film's well dated by artifact: mutton chops, cut-to-the-navel and gauzy see-through blouses, and a 12-pack-sized telephone answering machine.

RECOMMENDATION: Only for enjoyers of character studies or the genre.
November 9, 2007
Forgotten neo-noir from 1975 directed by BONNIE & CLYDE director Arthur Penn. Hackman is great in the lead as down-on-his-luck PI Harry Moseby. Convoluted crime story makes for compelling viewing, as does a naked teenage Melanie Griffith. Early James Woods role. One hell of a climax.
March 10, 2009
The story makes no sense and it's suppose to. Gene Hackman is thrown into the middle where everyone appears to be apart of a scandal that he really has no clue about. Fantastically done with one of my favourite endings.
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