Black Moon Rising review


Long forgotten by many, or just not seen by anyone in the first place, Black Moon Rising is a real nineteen-eighties action oddity. It stars not one, but two of that era's most recognizable stars, Linda Hamilton and Tommy Lee Jones. Although, arguably, Jones became more famous during the nineteen-nineties. Reliable old timer, Robert Vaughn, plays the villain, possibly wearing the same suit and tie he wore in Hustle, twenty years later. He's the slick antitheses to Jones's rough and ready, leather jacket wearing master thief.

At the start of the film, we see Jones putting his master thief abilities to good use when he robs a cassette tape from some evil corporation. The FBI wants the tape to use as incriminating evidence against said corporation. But some of the corporation's goons catch Jones on the job, and so he has to go on the run, stashing the tape inside the body of a prototype super-duper sports car that can do incredible speeds.

But then that car gets nicked by Robert Vaughn and Linda Hamilton. So Jones now has to steal the super-duper car to get the tape back, and then... following me so far?

This happens, then that happens...

Make no mistake, it's a long winded set up. Did the writers have a vague idea for a heist at the end of the movie, and then work backwards from there, making sure all the players on the board were in place and moving in the right direction? Nothing wrong with that, but early on, the plot feels a little mechanical because of it.

On the other hand, the plot's always moving: this happens, and then that happens, and because those two things happened, now this will happen, and this character will do this, making this other character do that. There's a clear line of cause and effect which is sometimes missing from a modern blockbuster.

John Carpenter is one of the writers, so maybe that has something to do with it. Known for keeping things simple, there's no extraneous fat in the plot for Black Moon Rising, no complicated back stories or anything like that. Only Linda Hamilton really gets anything approaching a back story, as we see how her character was plucked from the streets by father figure, Robert Vaughn. By contrast, the character played by Tommy Lee Jones is a complete blank slate. I knew as much about him at the end of the movie as I did at the beginning.

It beats Fast & Furious by thirty years

It's this almost workman like approach to plotting that kept me interested. Plus a schlocky, pulpy vibe that really is straight out of the eighties. The so-called super car is ridiculous looking, kind of a shit version of KITT (that doesn't talk) from Knight Rider. Or maybe even a shit version of the car (without the glowing lines) from Automan. It looks like a breeze might lift the front of the car up if it so much as gets above 30mph, let alone the 300mph it's supposed to be capable of.

The actors sell it though. When they hit the button for the booster rockets, pushing themselves back into the car seat as if they're being pressed into it by incredible g-forces, you'll almost believe the car could go that fast. But it looks cool during those moments anyway with massive twin plumes of purple flame shooting out of its arse end. It's silly, yes, but fun.

What surprised me the most is an action set piece towards the end that predates a similar one in Fast & Furious 7 by thirty years!! At the time of watching the stunt in F&F7, I thought I was seeing something entirely new. I've no idea if the writers of the Vin Diesel franchise had seen Black Moon Rising at that point, or if it's just one of those coincidences were no matter how original you think your idea is, you later find out someone else has already thought of it and done it.

However, both films are so different to each other, I don't think it really matters whether or not they ripped it off. The Fast & Furious franchise these days is all about "family" or whatever, and Black Moon Rising is all about, well, John Carpenter says it best when talking about the script... "It was my 'my car is stolen and I'm going to get it back' story."

As simple as that.

BONUS EXTRA: There's a bit where a deaf guy gets run over and then finished off by a dump truck that is so unintentionally funny, it's practically worth a whole extra banana on my patented* scoring system.

* not actually patented