Night Moves: The Pleasures of Monday Night Football


As part of its retrospective last week for director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, Alice’s Restaurant, Little Big Man) Anthology Film Archives screened the largely forgotten Night Moves (1975), a film worth putting in your queue if you missed it. Like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) and Robert Benton’s The Late Show (1977), Night Moves is a neo-noir, but a fretful one, a movie fully aware that its genre conventions are anachronisms totally out of place among the bell-bottoms and shag hairdos of the Me Decade. In fact, Gene Hackman, as Harry Mosbey, a former NFL star turned depressive gumshoe, wears what must be the worst comb-over/hairpiece combo in film history (in tatters during the action-packed denouement). Hired by a Hollywood widow to find her missing teenage daughter (a nubile Melanie Griffith) Harry travels to the Florida Keys, where he predictably stumbles onto bigger crimes than he anticipated.
While Night Moves shares the knowingness of its
contemporaneous neo-noirs (“Well come on Harry, take a swing just like
Sam Spade would”) its anxieties are unique. From the opening scene, in
which Hackman listens to the messages on his Code-a-Phone 700 answering
machine, to the prolonged shrill noise his rental car makes when he
leaves the door open, to the Uzi- and seaplane-involving finale, Night Moves shows the encroaching presence in
Harry’s life of futuristic technology. “That thing will kill your
eyes,” his wife says about the small B&W portable TV he keeps in
his den. Harry Mosbey is considerably more world weary than Sam Spade
and Philip Marlowe ever were, but those guys never had Monday Night
Football to think about, let alone nagging wives to distract them from
it.–Benjamin Strong