Night Moves

Meh.

That was my general reaction to 1975′s “Night Moves,” a little known detective film from director Arthur Penn.

It begins with a private detective, Harry (Gene Hackman); he’s hired by a former starlet Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) to track down her missing teenage daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith). Delly’s a wild child, who either flirts with danger or sleeps with it, and Harry quickly figures out her moves.

Some more plot happens, we meet some more characters, but the story really doesn’t go anywhere and nothing amazing happens. Solid performances all around, even one from a disturbingly young James Woods as Delly’s loser boyfriend Quentin, but there really isn’t enough of interest to really praise or damn the film.

But not all is lost.

Watching “Night Moves,” I kept thinking of (and longing for) another Hackman film that came out a year earlier: “The Conversation.”

Now there’s a movie to write home about. It’s a mystery that keeps evolving. It’s a character piece about the kind of person who makes a living from spying on others. It has a shocking ending that is thoroughly earned. It what Francis Ford Coppola’s worked on between “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II,” and holds its own with those masterpieces.

“Night Moves” and “The Conversation” would make for a decent double feature; just make sure you watch “The Conversation” second and end on a high note.