Night Moves(Warner Home Video, 7.12.2005)
Nobody does angry like Gene Hackman. Sure, Al Pacino can summon up a great deal of loud bluster, Harvey Keitel can get nine million kinds of scary, Gary Oldman can give you that crazy-eyed stare, and Jack Nicholson can tell you where to put the chicken salad. But when Hackman is pissed off in a movie, there's something in his voice, body language, and demeanor that makes you glad you're not the guy he just knocked back against the wall.
As Harry Moseby in Night Moves, the 1975 Arthur Penn thriller that is (finally) making its way to DVD, Hackman has plenty of opportunities to play the mad guy. A down-and-out detective (is there any other kind?) who has to solve a missing person case that leads to a whole lot more, he's got to deal with a cheating wife (Susan Clark), a teenage nymphomaniac (an oh-so-young Melanie Griffith), and a suspicious former prostitute turned dolphin farmer (Jennifer Warren) who are all giving him variations on the runaround. Sam Spade might not have played the sap for anyone but Harry has made it his standard operating procedure.
No wonder, then, that he takes it out on any guy he sees that makes the mistake of getting on his bad side, like the smart-mouth mechanic Quentin (James Woods, also ridiculously young here but no less intense) who knows more than he's letting on or a dockworker that makes the mistake of trying to tussle with Harry over the "honor" of Griffith.
Penn and Hackman had previously worked together on Bonnie and Clyde but Night Moves brings them a new collaborator, writer Alan Sharp (Ulzana's Raid, The Osterman Weekend), who contributes a screenplay that updates the 40s genre staples to the changing tastes of 70s counterculture audiences. As I observed earlier, the troubles with dames are still present but gone are the shadowy hallways, sinister heavies, and snappy banter of the old days, replaced by grimy locations, elliptical dialogue, and friends that aren't all they're cracked up to be.
The extras on the disc are sparse, consisting of the theatrical trailer -- which I recommend you watch after the feature, since the fates of several characters are revealed -- and a vintage featurette from the time of the film's release, titled "Day of the Director." It's pretty much the same as an EPK from today but with one welcome exception: instead of seeing the subjects sitting in chairs waxing endlessly about their process, the comments are used as voiceover for shots of Penn at work crafting the final sequence of the movie, making it slightly more active.
But the hell with extras. If you want to see the kind of performance that earned Gene Hackman the reputation he spends a lot of his current career squandering on junk like Behind Enemy Lines, you should run out and buy this movie. And if you're wondering, no, that Bob Seger song is not in the movie. -- Christopher Hyatt