I have recently been working my way through Warner Bros’ Archive Collection. One title that I was most excited to check out was Arthur Penn’s 1975 neo-noir classic Night Moves. I had not seen the film, but I had read up enough on the genre to know that the film was very well regarded. As soon as my copy arrived in the mail, I checked it out that night.
Night Moves revolves around private investigator and former football player Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman.) At the beginning of the film, Harry gains a new client named Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward.) The client was a minor actress but now spends her time drinking and sleeping around. Arlene’s daughter Delilah (Melanie Griffith) has disappeared and Arlene wants her to be brought back home. Moseby charges her for his time and expenses and agrees to the case. On his way home, he catches his wife Ellen cheating on him. While his relationship with Ellen becomes complicated, he dives deeper into the case of the missing girl. The first lead he finds is a mechanic named Quentin (James Woods) that had slept with Delilah until she left him for a stunt man. From this bit of information Moseby embarks on tracking her down. Along the way he meets numerous interesting characters in both Hollywood and Florida.
Night Moves is a great off-beat private investigator film. I am a big fan of this genre and this is somewhere in between the looseness of Altman’s The Long Goodbye and the depth of Polanski’s Chinatown. I really liked how the film is shaped around a character that feels realistically flawed. Instead of a purely macho hero, Moseby is a man that has been cuckolded. A great example is that he never attacks the man that has slept with his wife, but confronts him in a manner that befits a man who prefers to have answers over vengeance. The Seventies was a great time for these type of films and this ranks amongst the best of that era. The film is very impressive.
As can be expected, Gene Hackman is great as Moseby. Hackman was a super obvious choice considering his excellent work in The Conversation and his previous work with Arthur Penn. Hackman fills the role and the movie is built around his performance. The supporting actors all do a great job, but most people will probably leave the film thinking about a young and care-free Melanie Griffith as Delilah. Arthur Penn had directed the classic Bonnie and Clyde, and still had a great eye for detail on this film. The cinematography by Bruce Surtees works well for the film in both Hollywood and Florida. I particularly liked the way that Surtees shot the moving driving shots when Moseby traveled. Those shots are super evocative and cool and look great forty years later. The composition by Michael Small is enjoyable and fits the era. This same composer did soundtracks for films like Klute and Marathon Man, so he helped define the era for that type of sound. The script from Alan Sharp is cool because it allows you to figure out some of the connections between the characters without spelling it out for you. Night Moves is one of the rare films I would like to see again to see how it fits together knowing more.
Overall, I don’t think it gets much better than this type of film. This is one of my favorite releases that I have gotten to watch this year and if you like the genre I highly recommend checking it out.
Video: How’s it look?
Warner did a truly remarkable job on the transfer of the film using a 1080p MPEG 4 AVC codec of a brand new 4K restoration from the original negatives. The story behind this is pretty interesting. Warner originally performed a 2K restoration from second generation elements. When this failed, they had to go to the original negatives in a new 4K scan. I applaud Warner for spending the extra time and resources to do the job right. The cinematography is very well served by the Blu-Ray format, allowing much more detail than would have been possible on previous releases of the film. Surtees’ cinematography on the film looks sharp and unforced. Nothing feels heightened, which makes the world of Moseby seem so much more realistic. This film really looks fantastic.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Warner has provided a very capable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that stays true to the original elements but also uses a little more directionality than one might expect. Most of the scenes in the film are pretty center heavy, but there are some scenes that show a noticeable amount of activity. I don’t want to spoil what those scenes are, but you will know them when you see them. Michael Small’s compositions work well towards effecting a mood for the film and are opened up well by the 2.0 track. More solid work by Warner.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The Day of The Director – An archival piece that shows director Arthur Penn in Gulf of Mexico as he worked on the film. Enjoyable puff piece.
The Bottom Line
Night Moves is one of the best releases of the year in my opinion. With great performances, a tight script, and capable direction, it delivers the goods. I love this type of genre and I have a new favorite to add into my repertoire. Some fans will be disappointed by the lack of special features, but they should be super excited by the work Warner put in in this transfer. I highly recommend picking this one up.