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Knight Moves is a film of/for fruitcakes....a little too complicated to be
called a Madeira, but heavy enough to take away the hunger pangs. It
manages to convey the horror of death without any real murder sequences
being shown and is rather Hitchcockesque in places.
The story centres around chess player Peter Sanderson (Christophe Lambert) and his (possible) involvement in a string of serial killings. Due to his complete absorption in the game, he has already lost his wife and is now in danger of losing his daughter. Although he is the prime suspect, he becomes involved with a psychologist called in by the Police. This role was picked up by Christophe's (then) wife, Diane Lane, who not only coped well with the character, but also with a well-rehearsed bedroom scene. A case of 'truth being stranger than fiction'?
Like many of Christophe's films, this one relies heavily on explaining the psychology of the killer, even if it is only in laymen's terms; but it does deal with complex issues of responsibility and duress. The photography is a juxtaposition of European noir sur blanc and British thriller, with a little American 'home-grown' logic thrown in for good effect. Tom Skerritt is disappointing as the chief of police, a role that he plays woodenly. He is upstaged by his sidekick (Daniel Baldwin). Jeremy is portrayed by Ferdinand Mayne, an actor well known to film-going audiences, with over 120 roles to his credit before his death in 1998.
Although this film was not initially well received, its continued presence on the 'Pick of the week' shelf at the video store proves that it may well become a 'cult' film. It is often in the top-100-rentals slot in many countries and it seems to appeal to a diverse range of people. While some of the supporting cast need acting lessons, its camera work and well co-ordinated plot make this an original and enjoyable 'who-dunnit'...and you really will be guessing to the end.
I really liked this movie a lot. Very well written murder mystery with clues that are fair and sort of a scary movie to boot! It really keeps you guessing right to the last scene who is the disturbed murderer. Set on an island off Canada at a world chess tournament, where the killer is murdering his or her (I won't spill the beans!) victims by chess moves taken by the players. Every one and I mean everyone, is a suspect as the cast gets whittled down by the killer leading to a heart pounding climax. Nice photography with a creepy opening scene. If you like to play Sherlock Holmes or just like an edge of your seat mystery thriller you will enjoy this movie a lot. I guarentee you will keep changing your guess to who the killer is many times while watching this.....but use your little gray cells and follow the clues! Neat flick!
On the advice of some the comments I read here on the IMDB site, I picked up a $4.99 on sale wide screen DVD of this film. This film is an outstanding and extremely well written dark, disturbing murder thriller. I was amazed not expecting it to be this good! It does remind me a lot of the early 1970's Dario Argento films with it's black gloved razor blade clutching killer, oddball characters and film style. Set on an isolated island off the coast of British Columbia during a world chess championship, the killer is murdering the locals leaving scrawled blood drenched clues above their beds as he murders by chess moves. Christopher Lambert is one of the eccentric chess players drawn into the mystery who may(or may not)himself be the culprit. The clues in this movie stand up for any mystery lover and it was fun to try to solve the riddles presented and figure out who-dun-it. This is definately Lambert's best film role as he delivers a feverish performance. Last 20 minutes you will be on the edge of your seat as the film rushes to it's chilling and VERY exciting finale. The final camera "flash" shot (see the film then you will know what I am referring too) and last line spoken was a brilliant way to end this really great mystery thriller. This film was only fairly received upon it's initial release and most people have never even heard of it. I recommend this movie very highly for those who like an intelligent mystery that relies on mood, stylish directing and a well written script. 10/10 this movie blew me away!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During a big chess tournament a chain of brutal murders occurs. The victims are thoroughly young attractive females who are not related
anyway . The murder is always executed in a ritual way and the killer leaves
a message on the wall of the room (written of course with blood) . The
police are puzzled since this clever psychopath is obviously not a freak
worshiper of satanism or any other cult . Instead he seems to be a sadistic
calculating killer who not only has an unspecified goal but is so hideous
that he likes to show himself off and drag the police officers to a cat and
mouse game , challenging them to find him . The chief suspect for the gory
killings is Peter Sanderson (Christopher Lambert) a player in the tournament. Despite his young age , Sanderson is one of the most skillful and
acclaimed professional chess players . Right after the first bloodbath ,
Sanderson starts receiving harassing phone calls from the killer who not
only threatens his life but teases Sanderson to find his identity . Two
detectives (played by Tom Skerritt and Daniel Baldwin) and 1 criminal
psychologist (Diane Lane) co-operate with Sanderson in order to link the
dots and trace the killer . It is quite possible that the insane butcher is
an envious antagonist of Sanderson in chess from the past . But who can it
be ? Sanderson has played numerous chess games and has faced many famous
players . Surely a great amount has obviously injured egos because Sanderson
won them but which one of them snapped ? . Unfortunately the threatening
phone calls do not narrow the suspicions about his innocence . The police
seem to believe that the deaths come as the result of the actions of
Sanderson and a partner . What is the truth ?
This is one of the most atmospheric detective thrillers of the 90 s . Despite a no-name director and a no-name writer `Knight Moves' proves that professional filmmaking can be achieved with the talented work of the proper technicians (direction of photography , scenery setting etc) and a well written intelligent script . The plot seems to be a combination of Seven (1995) and The Game (1997) . Seven is reminiscent not only script-wise but the dark , rainy and dreary atmosphere is inherent in the directorial look . Well how do you know ! Knight Moves is actually a predecessor to these movies ! ( I believe David Fincher owes a great thank you to this film ) Just because it doesnt have major star power doesnt mean it should be left unnoticed . Few people know the existence of this wonderful thriller and in my opinion it is not fair for this little gem to be forgotten or overlooked . It is probably Christopher Lambert s best movie and a setup for many other crime mysteries which followed in the decade . So if you like whodunits I can assure you that this is one of the best samples.
The cinematography is dark and moody and it helps giving an ominous air to the screen . The sets are perfect for the claustrophobic threatening tone even in scenes with large halls like where the tournament is being conducted . The music and sound effects are also successful and contribute quite nicely to the creepiness of the movie (like the thunders during the storm). Aside from the great direction the basis of the film is a great screenplay with enough plot twists to keep the viewer hooked to the premise . All these surprises build up the tension , leading to a heart pumping final 20 minutes period and deliver a superb climax which you will remember for a long long time . There is a negative point though : Knight Moves belongs to a strange category of films which should be viewed only once and then left with fond memories . This means that your second viewing may come as a great disappointment since you already know what will come . Another minor flaw is that the killer s motive is clear from the very first scene . It is however difficult finding the adult now psychopath and the shrewdness of the director is that he manipulates us to forget the initial scene and concentrate on the twists and the red herrings that the screenwriter has staged for us . It is a truly fascinating modernization of the Hitchcockian tradition as we enter a tunnel only to be `allowed' later to find the light that was always there.
The acting is for the most part passable . Lambert plays solidly and gives a legitimate hero as an everyday guy who gets caught in a paranoid game . He is not the gorgeous poster model or the beefed up tough man . Tom Skerritt plays one of the most wooden and mundane police officers I have ever seen in a film . He is always neutral and cool tempered without catchy gags or profanity . This may render his presence almost invisible , but I believe the realistic approach is achieved here , since most officers are quite indifferent and inert in reality . All they are willing to do is arrive at the scene AFTER the crime and take fingerprints . On the contrary Daniel Baldwin (the most obscure of the clan) is the younger and more aggressive detective and his performance is a pleasant surprise . He believes that Sanderson is actually himself the accomplice who wants to fool them out . He exhales so much anger against Lambert s character that at many points the two of them nearly duke it out with their fists . It is quite original for a movie of this kind since the detectives usually form a harmonic alliance with the lead (a la Copycat) . Baldwin s and Lambert s stormy chemistry chips in the building of more tension and nerve . Diane Lane is the psychologist who halfway forms a predictable affair with Sanderson . She and Lambert were married at the time and it is funny to see their chemistry transferred on the celluloid . Further than the obligatory love interest Lane performs another difficult task . She manages to survive an underwritten role and she gives the best performance of the entire cast . For once again she proves herself a dynamic personality who captures the audience s attention. At short periods she temporarily becomes the lead herself ! Another exhibit for her pivotal screen presence is `Judge Dredd' . Very few times indeed has Hollywood given us active female roles who are not decorative co stars . The actor who plays the killer appears shortly (a la Kevin Spacey in Seven or William McNamara in Copycat) but is also quite good. The phone calls he makes with a special voice changer , make him sound like a distorted pervert and will certainly send chills down your spinal column . This is the most scary aspect of the film which pulls up the agony even more . The paranoid is a very sinister person and his chilling voice enhances the demonic threat which suspends above the heads of the leads and every other person who attends the tournament .
It is worth purchasing this exceptional mystery game . It is not simply a popcorn light movie just for the amusement of it . On the contrary `Knight Moves' is a professionally constructed mind trap which has terrifically escalating suspense and an explosive finale . Rent it , see it preferably after midnight and don t forget to dim the lights . The final part of the movie will certainly leave you breathless . A small independent masterpiece `Knight Moves' deserves far more recognition than it has got . If you like crime puzzles this is one of the best you can find.
KNIGHT MOVES 8.5 / 10
I really didn't know what to expect when I rented Knight Moves. A friend of mine knows that I loved thrillers and was surprised that I never saw it. This is a very well-made film. It had me guessing the whole time. The last 30 minutes are so tense that I almost dug a hole in the couch with my hands. It's funny how you see bits and pieces in other movies. When I was watching this film I kept thinking of se7en... but Knight Moves made several years before. Christopher Lambert was great as the Chess Master playing a game with a serial killer. He should do more films like this. The supporting cast was very good and Carl Schenkel's direction kept the film moving at a nice pace. I give it *** out of ****. If you like scary thrillers that have you on the edge of your seat, then this film is for you.
Excellent film who-dunnit. The setting of a chess tournament as a
backdrop for the various murders is unusual. Constantly kept guessing
as to whether the "hero" is in fact the murderer, until the very end
where the killer is revealed.
Christopher Lambert as the chess master plays out his anguish well as the evidence pointing to him builds to the point where the police believe he did it. The slips of the tongue from Lambert also give the impression he 'could' be the killer... But is he? Diane Lane is good as usual, not a lot is asked of Tom Skerrit so he doesn't give a lot as the police chief. Baldwin is good as the prejudiced cop who takes a serious dislike to Lambert's character.
Worth watching the first time for your own pleasure. Watch it a second time with someone who hasn't seen it before to see their reactions to the mystery!
A psychopath uses the game of chess as a blueprint for a series of brutal
murders, in this stylish 1992 film directed by Carl Schenkel.
Cinematography, sound effects, scary music, and sparse dialogue combine to
create an atmosphere of terror, suggestive of the "giallos" of Dario
We see the killer's black gloved hands; we see the flashlight shining in the darkened room of the next victim; we hear the killer's breathing through a mask. And in these scenes, absence of dialogue amplifies the surreal, menacing presence of the killer.
Suspense scenes alternate with scenes of mundane normalcy, which gives the viewer a chance to select the murderer from a pool of suspects whose behavior appear more or less normal. But beware; there are plenty of plot twists and false clues. The whodunit element kept me guessing and unsure; the film's suspense kept me fully engaged.
Acting quality is average. Diane Lane gives perhaps the most convincing performance of the bunch. My main criticism is the screenplay. In any murder mystery, the viewer needs enough information to have a fair chance at solving the whodunit puzzle. But in "Knight Moves", crucial details are left out. Also, several characters are poorly defined; we know almost nothing about them. Moreover, in several key scenes, the behavior of one of the main characters is not credible, given the story's underlying premise.
As a result, it's going to be almost impossible for the viewer to identify the killer, based solely on the plot. A script re-write, with more emphasis on character development, combined with the deletion of superfluous scenes would, I think, have made for a more satisfying whodunit puzzle.
Even so, I recommend "Knight Moves" as a most frightening and spine-tingling suspense thriller. For maximum effect, try watching it alone, in a mansion, at night with the lights turned out, during a thunderstorm.
Knight Moves is one of the finest suspense movies I have ever viewed. The only thing you know for certain in this film is that one of the characters on screen is the killer. The interplay between Peter( Christopher Lambert) and Andy ( Daniel Baldwin) is perfection. Even using The Empress Hotel in Victoria BC for location gave this movie the right feel as a thriller.
Peter Sanderson is a chess master in town for a major tournament. After
visiting her and having sex with her, Sanderson's casual lover is
murdered and left in a strange pose. The police suspect him as the
person who was with her moments before her death but things are
confused when Sanderson is contacted by the killer wishing to play a
game with him. The murders continue as Sanderson and the police try to
outsmart the killer however clues still indicate that Sanderson
could still be a suspect himself.
There are very few thrillers that would chose to set themselves in the world of grandmaster chess as the basis for their plot, and even fewer that would manage to pull it off convincingly; this film falls into the former but not the latter. The plot only really uses chess as the background so that it can make a rather tenuous link between that game and the game that is played between Sanderson and the killer. This basic plot is interesting enough even if it doesn't really stand out from the basic video-thriller genre that the chess connection suggests it is better than. The chess connection doesn't really work as it doesn't actually fit in with the murders very well feeling forced quite a lot; certainly the whole chess championship is just a side issue and the film never manages to actually convince that this is a battle of wits, in fact the police do most of the leg work and Peter only occasionally blurts out the odd 'Eureka in the bathtub' line.
The solution is semi-clever in that I realized that the film had tricked me from the first scene onwards, but, despite this fact, the identity of the killer is as out-of-the-blue and you would expect it to be. The film is littered with minor characters who jump out of shadows, appear at suspicious times or say menacing things under their breath, all red herrings of course but most of them are not explained and it is obvious the writer never thought about whether or not they made sense in any context other than them being red herrings. Having said that, the film is enjoyable but mainly as a genre film rather than anything clever or particularly inventive. The lack of a really clever cat'n'mouse game was a letdown for me because of the potential that the chess connection had suggested.
The cast are a fairly average mix that contribute to the feeling that this is a genre film rather than anything particularly clever. Lambert has had a very mixed career and this is just another strange role that he doesn't play that well certainly the words 'Lambert' and 'chess master' are words that words that don't seem to naturally appear together. Sticking with the clichés of both the genre and Lambert films, we get the obligatory love scene (twice!) that have little relevance but gives the film the added selling point of breasts! Skerrit and Baldwin are better than the rest of the cast even with poor characters the two of them control each scene they are in and make the film feel better than it is.
Overall, the title and background suggest a clever game of wits between a chess master and the killer but it doesn't manage to be anything more than an OK genre film. The twist is out of the blue as always but getting there is quite fun and the end result is a film that is enjoyable but quite unspectacular.
The best American Giallo (Italian Argento-like thriller) is made by a German guy ! It definitely is a giallo-like movie, mostly because of its secluded location and the almost-supernatural feel of the killer's presence, denoted by the eerie flash of his camera (though the bloodshed is avoided : I have nothing against gory violence, but it would seem out of place in this one.) I don't see any reference to "Seven", but scary thrillers have been before. Avoid at all costs pan&scanned version.
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