Black Moon Rising (1986) – Harley Cokeliss

My time with John Carpenter continues as I delve further into the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. This time around it’s an action thriller that Carpenter penned and sees Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Hamilton and Robert Vaughn caught up in the action.

Jones is Quint, a professional thief, who is hired by the FBI to gather evidence contained on a data tape of a company, The Lucky Dollar Corporation of Nevada,and their illegal doings, but when he’s forced to go on the run, a chance encounter allows him to hide the tape in a prototype for a fantastic car. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one after it.

Jones is perfect as Quint, he’s got a sly wit, attitude, smarts and exudes a healthy measure of cool. That seem to be indicative of a number of Carpenter’s heroes and it’s interesting watching someone else handle a Carpenter story. It also features a wicked score by Lalo Schifrin.

Hamilton plays Nina, Quint’s competition in claiming the car, and the two are thrown together in a typical 80s action film, that has its plot holes, poor location choices, and some less than stellar lighting and production design.

Nina is a carjacker working for Ryland (Vaughn), and they keep the Black Moon and the rest of their haul in a high profile, security building… And Quint is planning on going in after it.

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The car, much like the data tape within it, is nothing more than a McGuffin, for the action beats, and the heist, instead of being a character in the story itself. It’s screen time, despite the film’s title, is too short, and needed to be developed a little more (and the car’s cockpit was just a ridiculous set that didn’t feel like part of the car itself).

The downside to all of this is that the car, the Black Moon, looks a little lame. The idea of it is cool, it’s execution, not so much. There are some nice additions to the cast, William Sanderson and Bubba Smith, and the pairing of Jones and Hamilton is enjoyable, but they needed a little more spark in their dialogue.

Vaughn is given to little to do, and comes across as sleazy as opposed to menacing, which is unfortunate, because given the right script, he could have been absolutely terrifying.

The film struggles to find its balance, unsure whether it’s a straight out action, an heist, or a chase. Framing, editing and pacing could have been tightened up as well, and there are some odd choices, when you feel like we’re leading into a big chase sequence, it cuts to afterwards, and it feels like a missed opportunity (this may be due to budget constraints though).

Still, this one, for all it’s faults, has a sense of fun to it, and that is all due to Jones, he’s at ease in the role, making snide remarks, and exuding nonchalance. Despite it’s shortcomings, I had a lot of fun with it.

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