Directed by Peter Masterson (the same man who directed Blood Red and Convicts, both films also recently released on Blu-ray from Olive Films, who are handling this release as well), 1989's Night Game was written by Spencer Eastman. The movie is set in Galveston, Texas where everyone is getting all excited about baseball season and the chances for The Houston Astros. One night, after the team wins a game at the Astrodome, a maniac with a hook for a hand murders a blonde woman leaving very little evidence for the authorities to go off of.
Given the important of baseball to the local tourism industry, the powers that be are more keen than usual to get this problem taken care of as quickly and quietly as possible. Enter a cop named Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider), who soon realizes that this murderer only does his thing when the Astros win at home… and at night (hence the title of the movie). As he starts putting together the pieces of the puzzle he winds up getting closer to a call girl ring with ties to the department but also finds he has to balance his professional life with his personal life. The obvious key to that latter part is his fiancé, Roxy (Karen Young).
This one moves noticeably slower than your typical cops versus serial killer thriller but if you're a fan of Roy Scheider, that won't matter so much (and if you aren't, well, obviously then the opposite will ring true). Scheider plays Seaver as human. He's not the impossibly tough Dirty Harry style super cop but is instead a regular guy with a decent sense of humor and some likable charisma. The way in which the movie shows both his personal life and professional life intertwining makes him relatable and his interactions with his potential mother-in-law also serve as the source for some effective comedy that never really feels out of place despite the darker moments that pepper the film. Scheider's also got the right sort of face and is able to couple that with the right sort of body language, posturing and attitude to convince in the role.
The rest of the cast do a fair enough job. Karen Young is appealing in her part, we can see why Seaver would like her not just because she's attractive but because she seems like she'd be fun to be around. Adhering to the clichés of the genre, she is inevitably setup to be one of the killer's victims. She has an obvious physical resemblance to the other women that the killer has offed earlier in the movie and we kind of know that this is going to happen, because that's the type of thing that happens in by the numbers stories like this, but Young is fine here.
Also worth noting, without going into spoiler territory, is that the ending is quite strong. When we finally do find out who is behind all of this there is a fairly logical motive to it. Of course this doesn't excuse his actions, we're never led to think that, but there's at least some sense to it. The finish is also fairly intense in that there's an eeriness to it that the first two thirds of the movie don't really have. So while the pacing here is slow, lazy even, it builds nicely to a satisfying conclusion. Helping the movie along in this regard is a genuinely effective score from Pino Donaggio that works nicely alongside strong cinematography, well shot location work and good lighting. This all winds up making Night Game a decent slice of late eighties entertainment.The Blu-ray:
Olive Films gives Night Game a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. It's a little soft in spots but you definitely see the advantages that HD offers here in both improved detail and texture. Grain is never hard to spot and sometimes heavier than at other times, but it's not overpowering or distracting. Minor print damage does show up here and there. Skin tones seem accurate, black levels are good. The transfer won't floor you but it's a nice HD presentation of the movie.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track and it sounds just fine. Clarity is good, there's a reasonable amount of depth and range to the mix and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Hiss and distortion are non-issues and both the score and effects have good presence.Extras:
Aside from a menu and chapter selection there are no extras on this disc.Final Thoughts:
Night Game isn't likely to blow anyone's mind, it's a fairly generic and by the numbers thriller, but Scheider is fun to watch in it and it has a few surprisingly effective murder set pieces working in its favor. It's leisurely paced and a little slow, but nicely shot. If it isn't a classic, it is perfectly entertaining. Olive's Blu-ray is a barebones release but it looks and sounds quite nice. Recommended for genre enthusiasts or Roy Scheider fans, a perfectly fine rental for the masses.