The Daily Stream: 'Night Moves' Stars Gene Hackman As A Sweaty Private Eye

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: Night Moves

Where You Can Stream It: The Criterion Channel

The Pitch: Gene Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a former football player who has become a low-rent private investigator in Los Angeles. When he's hired to find a client's missing teenage daughter, he becomes caught in a web of lies and mystery that takes him across the country and unearths a criminal operation.

Why It's Essential Viewing: Because you probably miss Gene Hackman as much as I do.

I just saw that Hackman is still alive and well, living in New Mexico, biking, and hanging out with friends at age 91. Back in 1975, he starred in Night Moves, director Arthur Penn's terrific neo-noir that lets Hackman put his unique spin on a classic archetypal character: the down-and-out, deadbeat gumshoe. This is Hackman at his most Bogart-ish, sweating bullets in the oppressive Florida heat, roughing up punks to find a missing girl, and generally throwing himself into his case while his love life falls apart. Like all great noir detectives, Harry Moseby is stubborn and persistent. And like all great noir detectives, it's that stubbornness and persistence that gets him in major trouble.

This movie won't be for everyone. Melanie Griffith plays the teenage daughter at the center of the mystery, and there are several scenes where she's naked on screen that were shot while she was an uncomfortably young age. But if you can get past that (and the presence of James Woods in a supporting part), Night Moves is a fantastic example of what happens when a capable filmmaker takes cinematic tropes from 30 or 40 years before and modernizes them, letting his characters fully inhabit familiar roles with a fresh coat of paint. The plotting doesn't get as intricate or labyrinthine as it does in a film like The Big Sleep, but like that Bogart classic, it's more about spending time with the characters and seeing how they interact with and move through the world; the characters' body language arguably says more than the dialogue throughout.

As for Hackman, this is one of his best performances – and that's obviously saying something when you're talking about a guy who was in things like The Conversation, The Royal Tenenbaums, Unforgiven, and Crimson Tide (just to name a few). He nails every interaction, ever emotional outburst, every glance, every lumbering, brutish confrontation. The ending, where he realizes what it all means, makes the entire journey worth it, and the film's haunting, circuitous final image has stayed with me for weeks.