Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is a former football star now slumming it as low rent, scruffy private detective. He doesn't like his job, his wife wishes he'd find something else to do, and he doesn't have a lot of prospects, even if he does get the occasional job offer from a friend named Nick (Kenneth Mars) who works at a competing agency. Regardless, he winds up working a case wherein he needs to track down a young sixteen year old runaway named Delly Grastner (Melanie Griffith). She's left her Beverly Hills home to get away from her horrible drunken mother, a one-time star named Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward).
if working the case weren't enough, Moseby winds up with even more on his mind when he finds out that Ellen (Susan Black) is sleeping around behind his back. Understandably distraught by this news, he makes a few missteps that he instantly regrets. Regardless, he manages to track Delly all the way to the east coast where he learns that she was seen in the Florida Keys. Interestingly enough, this is where her former ex-stepfather runs a small charter plane operation. As Moseby meets various people that Delly has interacted with he soon learns that this young woman is hardly innocent. She not only tried to seduce her step-father Tom Iverson (John Crawford), but has had run ins with a few other men associated with her mother's Hollywood past, including a mechanic named Quentin (James Woods). As Moseby keeps working the case, he meets and falls for a woman named Paula (Jennifer Warren) who has some skeletons in her own closet she'd rather not let loose.
A dark, noir-inspired detective thriller, Night Moves gives Gene Hackman, clearly a very talented actor, a whole lot to work with here. His character means well. He wants to get to the bottom of this case because he has an unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth, not just in his professional life but in his personal life as well. The problem with this, in his personal life at least, is that when he gets a truth he finds unpleasant, he doesn't really know what to do with it. this Causes Harry to make some questionable judgement calls that soon have a trickledown effect in his attempts to find out what happened to Delly and why. Hackman plays this part perfectly. He's a little grouchy, a little haggard and occasionally more than a little tragic but he's tough when he needs to be and in his own kind of backwards way, he is a good man. These character traits suit his acting style and he really commits to the role.
Supporting work is really strong in this picture as well. Melanie Griffith is very good as the manipulative catalyst for all that occurs in the picture. She isn't above using her sex appeal to get what she wants and more often than not, it works. Janet Ward is solid here as the mother whose career is on the skids (the only reason she had much of a career in the first place was because she married a producer). We can feel for her position and understand why she'd be upset that the sun has set on what she once had, but she is a very unlikeable person. Ward channels this well. Throw in Jennifer Warren as what is essentially a femme fatale and a young James Woods in a supporting role as someone who clearly has it out for Delly and, well, the cast shine as the plot unfolds is interesting and intricate ways.
Director Arthur Penn, who worked with Hackman not just on this picture but also on Bonnie And Clyde earlier in 1967 and then again on Target in 1985, paces the picture nicely. It never lacks, there's good propulsion here and lots of forward momentum that results in some solid suspense and a few nice twists. Cinematography from Bruce Surtees and a score from Michael Small add to the value of the production.The Blu-ray:
Night Moves looks fantastic on this 50GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The film is offered up in a "New 2017 1080p HD remaster created from 4K scan from the original camera negative" and it looks as good as you could hope it would. There's excellent detail here from start to finish and the image is more or less pristine outside of a few tiny white specks here and there that most won't even notice. Black levels are nice and deep but at the same time we get strong shadow detail and avoid obvious crush. There are no noticeable compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement or noise reduction to complain about. The end result is a clean, crisp film-like transfer that should make fans of this film very happy indeed.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only, there are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. The audio here is clean, clear and concise. Dialogue is easy to understand and follow and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion worth noting. Range is limited, as you'd expect from an older mono mix, but there are no issues here, this sounds very true to source.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is a nine minute long vintage featurette entitled Day Of The Director. This isn't much more than a promotional piece touting director Arthur Penn's talents but it does show off some of the film's action set pieces being staged and shot and for that reason it's quite interesting to see. Additionally, the disc includes a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Night Moves is a very strong film. It's slick, it's suspenseful, it's exciting and it is very well acted by all involved. Warner Archive's Blu-ray debut for the picture might be light on extras but it sounds fine and man oh man does it ever look nice in high definition. Highly recommended.