Harper (The Moving Target) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Harper (The Moving Target) Reviews

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April 17, 2016
Harper est un film de personnages, avec une bonne dizaine d'entre eux, aussi étranges que patibulaires, se tirant dans les pattes à propos de la disparition du mari d'une femme fatale jouée par Lauren Bacall. Autour d'eux, Paul Newman, dans sa meilleure imitation d'Humphrey Bogart, mène l'enquête, prend des beignes, en colle quelques unes et délivre quelques jolis dialogues. Mais ce qu'Harper gagne en sympathie, il le perd en rythme, à cause de la mise en scène particulièrement anémique de Jack Smight et au scénario de William Goldman, qui tourne très vite en rond. C'est d'autant plus dommage que le dénouement est très réussi. Mais pour y arriver, quelle lenteur!
½ September 17, 2015
The happiness market has crashed, baby.

Lew Harper is a private investigator in Los Angeles that is going through a divorce and has been hired for a unique case. A desperate wife and her step daughter contact him about their missing millionaire playboy husband/father. He was last seen making a call to Vegas from a local bar and Lew tracks down a man in Vegas who may be responsible. He tries to solve this case while also saving his marriage.

"This place is like the morgue."

Jack Smight, director of Midway, The Illustrated Man, Airport 1975, No Way to Treat a Lady, Fast Break, Double Indemnity, and The Third Man, delivers Harper. The storyline for this picture is very interesting though a bit spastic at times. The dialogue was good as was the acting. The cast includes Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, and Julie Harris.

"Can you believe something as rancid as her was once a baby?"

I came across this on Movies! and had to DVR it. This was entertaining and fun to watch unfold. I thought some scenes were clumsy and annoying, but Newman is always fun to watch in these types of roles (similar to The Sting). Newman has just had some better films in this genre which is why I couldn't recommend this over The Sting or Cincinnati Kid.

"Gemini are cold hearted."

Grade: B-
½ June 24, 2015
I've recently found that I like getting lost in a movie. I don't mean lost like totally confused, blindsided, dizzy, nauseous, a victim of cinematic vertigo: I mean lost in the way one could describe viewing "The Big Sleep" or "Inherent Vice", so ensnared in the labyrinthine tangles of the story that incomprehensibility doesn't seem like such a big deal after an hour or so. When dialogue and actors curl up into the most attention giving halves of your brain and seduce you, there, no matter how hard you try to fight back, isn't any going back. Life doesn't make much sense either, so why not give up skepticism to our greatest entertainers?
"Harper" is a neo-noir made in the same mindset as the earlier mentioned "The Big Sleep". It is a sprawling mess of a detective movie we eventually give up on following. But, despite its increasing convulsions into the mind bending atrocities of what we call a plot twist, we can't help but be completely and utterly charmed by the postcard ready, noiry sprinklings of it all. Part of it has to do with Paul Newman, in his prime, giving Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell a run for their money as a private dick who has long given up on caring about anything besides work. But the other part has to do with Jack Smight, who directs as though the plot isn't rough, as if nothing else matters besides sparkling conversation and memorable character bits.
Movies like "Harper" are so alluring to me because everything we've come to know about cinema seems to be flipped onto its back. We have a tendency to think that every "good" film we ever see should be cohesive and popcorn ready; we forget about the unfortunate celluloid wasters who have the personality of a confused teenager or a depressed intellect. But "Harper" is a good film in ways we aren't so usually ready to accept. It isn't good because it is cohesive or popcorn ready: it's good because it seems to resonate even in its most head-scratching moments. Look at the way the actors interact, the way the script allows them to go from mocking politeness to brutal cat talk in the snap of a sharply manicured finger. Irresistible, isn't it, how much an actor beguiled by their material can turn into a fascinating oddity of art museum quality.
There's a plot to be found here, but does it much matter? Newman portrays Lew Harper, a private eye so down on his luck that even alcohol couldn't temporarily fix his sorrows. His wife (Janet Leigh) is about to divorce him, he's sleeping in his office, and his business is so awful he can barely make ends meet. Don't be fooled by his handsome composure: underneath his smirk and befitting suits lies a deep hurt even he won't admit to himself. So thank God millionairess Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall) calls him up, offering large sums of money to locate her long gone husband, who is either off with another dame, or, heaven forbid, is in danger. It's been a long time since Harper undertook a case with such lurking complexities, but he takes the responsibility of ensuring Mr. Sampson's safety. What else is he to do?
Machinations arise: what should have been a fairly straightforward hide-and-seek assignment grows steadily deadly as it appears that Harper's target was involved in things way over his head. Aiding him are Sampson's voluptuous daughter (Pamela Tiffin) and her untrustworthy boyfriend (Robert Wagner). A number of connections (including Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Robert Webber, and Strother Martin) are deceptively interviewed and a number of double-crosses are made along the way - but, as it turns out, the truth can be found in the areas one originally wasn't going to consider.
I could tell you the guy behind Sampson's disappearance (an unexpected shock, certainly!), but I couldn't manage to explain the dot-to-dot intricacies of the relationships between all the other characters that pump intrigue into "Harper"'s plot. But I don't care. The film has too popping of a personality to talk down to, and in an era where films were transitioning from wholesome filth to dreaded hippiedom, it's impressive that "Harper" is at once modern and a throwback. Sometimes it feels timeless, in others an account of a lost era of Californian noir underbellies.
William Goldman's screenplay, as complicated as it is, is mostly lustrous, the dialogue written with such snap that it seems hard to find a line anything other than strictly hard-boiled. Not a problem. The actors all seem pleased with the material, even the ones (Shelley Winters, everybody) who have to ignore the self-loathing cool of their co-stars and play their roles melodramatically in order to make some sort of an impression. But the characterizations are seamless, with Goldman making such broad stereotypes as cult leaders, cooing femmes, has-been actresses, and junkie lounge singers seem straight out of a smoke lined detective novel.
"Harper" isn't perfect, but one shouldn't automatically expect perfection coming from a detective movie obviously inspired by the convoluted roughness of "The Big Sleep". One should expect inner workings interesting in themselves. Nothing is placed on the table for us to devour. "Harper" isn't that obvious. It would rather us really listen to the words the characters spout out at such a quick pace, notice how sly and clever its central character is. And for that, I can hardly bear finding much fault in it.
May 31, 2015
Paul Newman was a hottie.
½ January 20, 2015
Lew Harper you are the man.
January 1, 2015
Something intangible is missing, and that something is the curious kind of "cool" that Mr. Bogart used to establish in these tersely detached detective roles. Mr. Newman is an interesting actor. He can he cynical, casual, cruel and can convey an air of personal anguish that is appropriate to his noncommitted role. But he is too fresh, too ruggedly good looking to be consistent as the sort of beat-up slob that his shady detective is intended to be and as Mr. Bogart used to be.

The genius in Bogey's performance was the fly-blown integrityâ??the sort of consumptive valorâ??he generated in slobs. Mr. Newman makes his detective more a smoothie on the order of James Bond and that isn't quite the characteristic for the self-condemned loser in this film.
½ December 1, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
November 8, 2014
a good movie based on the movie the Big Sleep and Lauren Bacall was in both movies.Paul Newman played his role well.
October 30, 2014
Paul Newman is unconvincing in the role of a semi-retarded private-eye.
½ October 26, 2014
Good story, great acting from Newman! But what a strange ending!?!?
½ August 16, 2014
Something I'd recorded of TCM ages ago, so I finally gave it a spin and I really dug the way Newman plays the character, plus you get some hot latter day Lauren Bacall action, what's not to love?

Rental!
June 21, 2014
Terrific 1960s update of the Chandler/Hammett hard boiled detective story. Paul Newman plays Lew Harper, a hip PI hired by wealthy lady Lauren Bacall (a nice callback to her role in "The Big Sleep") to find her missing husband. In the classic tradition of the detective novel, there is is rogues gallery of characters, including Shelley Winters as an alcoholic has-been actress, Julie Harris as a woman with a secret, the gorgeous Pamela Tiffin as a society girl, Robert Wagner as something of a playboy and Strother Martin as a new age cult leader. Competently, though not spectacularly, by Jack Smight, who's mostly remembered for his "Airport" films, but the film's real behind the scenes star is screenwriter William Goldman, who adapted his screenplay from a Ross Macdonald novel. It's a complex story that's told with precision and with flair. Goldman's dialogue is a particular standout, with loads of great moments that seem like throwaway like that I love, like when Newman dismisses the gorgeous Tiffin's flirtatiousness by saying, "You need a tail on your kite - something to slow you down. So you'll stop acting like a bitch in heat every time something pretty in pants wanders by." Johnny Mandel provides a good score, though it seemed a bit more glib and comedy oriented that I would have liked. Conrad Hall also provided the excellent photography of the bright LA setting, which is quite a contrast dark moody noirs. There was a sequel about ten years later, and Newman played a detective again about twenty years later in the underrated "Twilight", which I always like to think was an unofficial sequel to these films. Overall, this is a must see for fans of detective films, and although it's not quite a genre breaking as something like "Chinatown" it's still a great ride.
March 17, 2014
Paul Newman makes it worth the time.
February 10, 2014
Entertaining crime thriller from the 60's, predictable but still entertaining.
July 14, 2013
This is without a doubt one of the worst movies I have ever seen. You have all these talented actors some of whom have 0 connection to the plot. Finally after the screen writer and director had worked the plot into a complete dead end, they simply threw up their hands , had the actors to the same and put us all out of our misery.
½ July 13, 2013
Paul Newman channels Humphrey Bogart to perfection as the eponymous hero of this excellent neo-noir. Awash with femme fatales and the usual attributes associated with the genre, it is by no means formulaic and the plot twists and turns to a delightful finish.
½ July 2, 2013
"Harper" es la adaptacion de la novela de detectives "El Blanco Movil" protagonizada por el detective Lew Archer. Aqui, Archer es cambiado a Harper, debido a la creencia de Paul Newman de que sus peliculas cuyos titulos comenzaban por H serian exitos asegurados ("Hustler", "Hud", "Hombre"). Este es un intento de llevar al detective de los anos 40 a los anos 60. El resultado es irregular, pero no deja de ser entretenido. Newman es el cinismo encarnado y un elenco conformado por Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters y Robert Wagner, entre otros, le da clase a la cinta.
½ June 23, 2013
A below-the-radar winner on all counts, a keeper, if only to make sure you catch all of Mr. Newman's nuances. Total entertainment. 4.5/5 well earned. Bonus: Robert Osborne intro.
April 1, 2013
Paul Newman stars as a cold, gritty and messy private investigator looking for a businessman for his estranged and invalid wife. Great cast, and a great titular character played by Paul Newman, but his charismatic performance is wasted in a story that is too tangled and a direction that is too straight forward to make this thriller stand out.
December 30, 2012
Directed by Jack Smight (Kaleidoscope (1966) and The Illustrated Man (1969)), based on The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald, and adapted by William Goldman, this is a good, jazzy detective story with a good ensemble. It has a good lead and some good cinematography, with a light jazzy score by Johnny Mandel. It's a long film, but it pays off well. In Los Angeles, down and out private detective Lew Harper (Paul Newman) is assigned by rich socialite Mrs. Sampson (Lauren Bacall) to help find her missing husband, who she believes is off philandering with another woman. Harper meets Sampson's teenager daughter Miranda (Pamela Tiffin) and her suave boyfriend Allan Taggart (Robert Wagner). Harper's investigations take him from druggie jazz singer Betty Fraley (Julie Harris) to washed up, overweight entertainer Fay Esterbrook (Shelly Winters) and onto bogus New Age preacher Claude (Strother Martin). Nothing is what it seems, and Harper ends up in a web of lies, going round in circles, but Allan is on hand to help out with the case, and Harper ends up getting roughed up by people who don't want him getting too close. It's a good detective story, mark the crossroads between the old film noirs and what was to come with the likes of Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973). Newman exudes a natural coolness, and he's likeable and tough too. You can see why he was a great actor from this, and he had a good support to back him up.
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