There’s a few bits of film trivia that really intrigue me, and several of them involve writer/director John Carpenter.
The first one is probably the juiciest, though it has nothing to do with the film I’m about to review: While John Wayne’s final film The Shootist (1976) is considered a beautiful wrap up to his career, Mr. Wayne actually set his sights on a follow up film. That film, Blood River, was written by a very young John Carpenter and Mr. Wayne intended to bring along Ron Howard (who was in The Shootist) to co-star with him in it. Mr. Wayne would pass away from cancer before the film was made, though and, years later and in 1991, Blood River was released as a TV movie starring Wilford Brimley and Ricky Schroder in the roles which were intended for Wayne and Howard.
The second bit of trivia, which does relate to this movie: Tommy Lee Jones has starred in two films written by John Carpenter but has not appeared in any John Carpenter directed films.
The first film is the 1978 Irvin Kirschner directed The Eyes of Laura Mars -the film he directed before directing The Empire Strikes Back!- and the second is the one I’m reviewing here today: 1986’s Black Moon Rising.
Here’s the movie’s trailer
Featuring Linda Hamilton, Robert Vaughn, and Lee Ving (!), Black Moon Rising plays out very similarly, plot-wise, to of all things Escape From New York!
How? Welp, Tommy Lee Jones playing Quint, a thief who is hired by the government to break into a tech firm and steal a computer tape (this was the 1980’s) with their financial improprieties on it. He has a tight deadline to produce this tape to them, and has to deal with all kinds of difficulties -including a thief (Lee Ving) who the company hired to take Jones’ character out and retrieve the incriminating evidence.
Quint gets a hold of the tape but pursuit is hot and heavy after him. He manages to hide the tape in a super-high tech car called the Black Moon, but before he can retrieve it, the car, along with many others, is stolen by a high tech car thief ring. Among the thieves is Linda Hamilton’s Nina, who is only a couple of years removed from her classic role in The Terminator and looks almost exactly the same!
There’s romance, of course, along with a pair of hissable villains, but the reality is that the film makes very little sense and, if you think about those things, you may find yourself not liking what you see.
The tape the government needs for their court case, it struck me right away, would get tossed from any trial if the government couldn’t state how they got it, and I seriously doubt they’d admit to hiring a thief to steal it from them!
Later in the film, a character is murdered and no one calls the police or makes a report… the murder of this innocent person is pretty much used as incentive by his friends to work with Quint but otherwise, forgotten!
Robert Vaughn is good as the steely and evil head of the car theft ring, but given the fact that he owns what appears to be two skyscrapers, one wonders if a car theft ring could make that much money… even if they were the best out there.
These are but some of the things that one has to accept if one were to come away liking the film or, conversely, cannot swallow and therefore wind up walking out not liking the film.
For me, the problems were pretty clear yet the film has enough swagger provided by Tommy Lee Jones in what is a similar to (but not close to identical) Snake Plisskin-type of role, that of the loner thief who is hired to do something good. Quint isn’t the anarchist Plisskin was, but he does at times show a similar attitude, though Jones makes him a little less mythic. Linda Hamilton, similarly, is quite good as the car thief come love interest, though none of the characters in the end are given an incredibly large amount of depth.
Perhaps most intriguing of it all is that the car, the “Black Moon” doesn’t take up huge amounts of screen time, as one might have expected it to. It shows up and is the goal -because of what’s hidden inside it- but the film’s makers wisely don’t flood the movie with shots of the super-car doing super-car stuff, instead showing the way Quint slowly works his way to getting the car back.
Black Moon Rising isn’t some lost classic of the 1980’s. It’s an at times cheesy bit of popcorn filmmaking which, as I have stated over and over again regarding “older” films, may play too slow with modern audiences who are by now expecting a far quicker pace to their action films.
Yet there is enough within Black Moon Rising to offer enjoyment, especially if you are a John Carpenter fan. I don’t know how much of his original script ultimately made it to the screen, but the main plot, character, and antagonist sure do play out like other Carpenter works, and if you’re a fan of John Carpenter, you may want to check it out for that reason alone.
For the rest of you, its a decent film -provided the problems I outlines above don’t ruin it for you- that’s enjoyable enough especially if you long to see a young Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Hamilton.