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Night Moves (1975) - Plot Summary Poster

(1975)

Plot

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Summaries

  • Private detective and former football player Harry Moseby gets hired on to what seems a standard missing person case, as a former Hollywood actress whose only major roles came thanks to being married to a studio mogul wants Moseby to find and return her daughter. Harry travels to Florida to find her, but he begins to see a connection between the runaway girl, the world of Hollywood stuntmen, and a suspicious mechanic when an unsolved murder comes to light.

  • In Los Angeles, the private detective and former athlete Harry Moseby is hired by the retired obscure Hollywood actress Arlene Iverson to find her 16-year-old missing daughter Delly Grastner. Harry discovers that the runaway girl has a promiscuous life and uses drugs, and he tracks down her last boyfriend Quentin, who works as a mechanic on the sets. Meanwhile, Harry finds that his wife Ellen is cheating on him, and he has difficulties in handling the situation. Then he visits stuntman Marv Ellman and stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler and follows the new lead, heading to the Florida Keys, where Delly is living with her stepfather Tom Iverson. Harry is welcomed by Paula, who works with Tom on a boat and has an open relationship with him. The reluctant Delly surprisingly agrees to return to Los Angeles with Harry to live with her mother. Harry and Ellen have a long conversation trying to solve their marriage problems. When Harry learns that Delly has died in a car crash, he suspects Quentin. But he soon finds that the initial missing person case is actually a complex smuggling operation of a valuable artifact.

  • Harry Moseby is a former pro football player turned Los Angeles-based private investigator, who owns his own independent firm. What he thought was his stable marriage to high-end antiques gallery manager Ellen Moseby is not, when he finds out she has been having an affair. Although she still loves Harry, Ellen believes his work - especially having to do all his own legwork in his independent agency, as opposed to working for a larger private investigation firm - is overtaking his life and their marriage. This revelation is bad timing for Harry as he starts on a new case, to locate two-week missing sixteen-year-old Delly Grastner for her mother, twice-divorced Arlene Iverson, a former bit actress. Beyond the job itself, Harry can see that Arlene's motives are not motherly love. He eventually learns that Arlene, who lives well, achieved what little success she had in the business by sleeping with the right people, and that the probable reason that she wants Delly back is that her daughter's sizable trust fund set up by Arlene's first husband, Delly's late father, is Arlene's sole means of support. When Harry believes he discovers not only Delly's reasons for running away but also to where she was running in achieving her goal, he changes the complexity of the case solely from missing person to possibly smuggling, attempted murder and multiple homicide, which have far more inherent dangers to himself. All the while, he still grapples with what to do about the broken state of his marriage.

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  • Harry Moseby, a former pro football turned L.A. private detective, is assigned to search for a missing person in the Florida Keys. Hired by a Hollywood actress to investigate this disappearance, Moseby decides to travel to the Keys while trying to hold on to his crumbling marriage with his cheating wife, who is seeing another man. Once Moseby gets to the Keys, his investigation leads him deeper into trouble when he discovers several clues including a sunken plane and dead bodies. As Moseby's investigation continues to get deeper, he realizes that there's something particularly wrong about this case.

  • Los Angeles private detective Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter and he stumbles upon a case of murder and artifact smuggling.

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Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Four men in the movie stunt business join together to smuggle precious Mexican antiquities to the States. All are pilots except for mechanic Quentin (James Woods). One of the pilots, Tom Iverson (John Crawford), also has a charter business in the Florida Keys, used as a staging point for the smuggled goods. Iverson's girlfriend Paula (Jennifer Warren) is also in on the scheme. All of this occurs before the movie opens; all that follows happens during the film.

    Los Angeles private eye and former NFL player Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) arrives at the Keys searching for Iverson's runaway, nymphet stepdaughter Delly (Melanie Griffith). Moseby was hired by Arlene Iverson, Tom's selfish ex-wife and a former actress. Arlene's only means of support is Delly, Arlene's daughter by her first husband.

    After Moseby takes the case, he discovers that his wife is cheating on him, but instead of talking to his wife Ellen (Susan Clark), he accosts the man she has been seeing, Marty Heller (Harris Yulin). Marty despises Harry for acting like a private eye instead of taking care of his own marital problems. Although they eventually reconcile, Ellen also despises Harry for treating her like a case subject instead of his wife.

    As Moseby follows the clues to Delly, he makes fast friends with stunt director Joey Ziegler (Ed Binns) who is keen to help Moseby find Delly. Moseby discovers that Quentin and stunt flier Marv Ellman (another smuggler) were both once involved with, and fought over, Delly, although Moseby has no suspicion of the other motives and machinations occurring under his nose. Moseby eventually finds Delly with Iverson and Paula in the Keys, and they allow Moseby to stay for a while as he tries to convince Delly to come back to L.A. with him.

    During a boating trip one night with Delly and Paula, they find Ellman's downed plane. Paula deceives Moseby about a marker she places at the crash, saying it is for the Coast Guard. It is really for Iverson who will come to the site later and retrieve the stolen goods from Ellman's plane. During this time, Paula seduces Harry to keep him occupied. Delly eventually comes back to L.A. with Moseby, finding Quentin waiting for her at Arlene's home.

    It is the last time Moseby sees Delly alive, with everyone at the house yelling at one another other while Harry drives away, not reflecting on the turmoil he has once again introduced into Delly's life.

    Arlene gets Delly some movie extra work but she dies in a car crash during a stunt in which Ziegler was driving, who lived but was badly injured. Moseby views film footage of Quentin under the car before the stunt and begins to suspect Quentin murdered Delly. Moseby confronts Quentin and accuses him of killing Delly because she discovered he killed Ellman out of jealousy. They fight but Quentin escapes. Moseby then tells Ziegler he thinks Quentin and Iverson are in on something but he doesn't know what. Moseby goes back to the Keys to find out.

    Moseby arrives at Iverson's charter business to find Quentin dead. Moseby then confronts Iverson who confesses to killing Quentin. Quentin thought Iverson killed Ellman to get a larger share of the smuggling proceeds, and Moseby had scared Quentin into thinking he was going to go down for Ellman's murder instead. Moseby struggles with Iverson and knocks him out, then is determined to finish things by having Paula help him locate the stolen artifacts.

    They find the marker previously left, and while Paula is underwater, a seaplane strafes the boat and Harry is injured. The plane lands and sees Paula surface along with a large stone sculpture. The plane runs her down but then collides with the sculpture, kicking out its pontoons. The plane then flies into the boat and begins to sink. Harry tries to get a glimpse of the pilot from the diving window built into the boat's keel: it is Ziegler, the last person he ever suspected.

    The movie ends with Harry unsuccessfully trying to steer the boat to shore - he succeeds only in going in circles.

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