Directed by: Carl Schenkel
Written by: Brad Mirman
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Diane Lane, Tom Skerritt, Daniel Baldwin, Katherine Isabelle
Plot: Christopher Lambert stars as Peter Sanderson, a chess champion who is implicated in a series of murders of women – one of whom he recently slept with. Police psychiatrist Kathy Sheppard (Diane Lane) is assigned to build up a profile of the killer. However, she begins to believe that Sanderson is not the killer and helps him outwit the two cops, Sedman and Wagner (Tom Skerritt and Daniel Baldwin), who are hot on his trail. (Synopsis from Amazon)
Verdict: I had a good time with this film. It had been years, probably sometime in the mid 90s, since I had last seen Knight Moves and so when I stumbled upon it on Youtube I simply had to watch it. This movie had quite a presence in my childhood. When I was a kid, I used to have the poster for it tacked up to my bedroom wall; my dad worked in a video store and so I used to get given posters for all sorts of movies. Therefore, as I sat down to watch it again, I knew that even if the movie was lame, so many films I loved from my youth don’t hold up today, the nostalgia hit from it would still make Knight Moves worth my time. But Knight Moves isn’t lame. It’s actually quite good.
Going into this one again I had pretty much forgotten the entire plot, which was fortunate because this movie is a giallo-like whodunit. Who the killer was didn’t come back to me while I watched it and so the red herrings the movie kept throwing at me really did keep me guessing. And though the ultimate reveal of the killer was a little disappointing at least the movie didn’t fall apart like a lot of whodunits do when the killer is revealed. I didn’t say “that don’t make sense” to myself at all during the final act, which is so often the fatal flaw of a whodunit’s final act.
Knight Moves does, however, have some daft moments. Near the end, chess master Sanderson far too easily escapes from police custody. At the time of his escape he’s in a police station manned by only two police officers, but all the other times we see the station throughout the movie it is swarming with cops, where’d they all go! Also, for someone being harassed by a serial killer Sanderson never seems to care that much about what his young daughter, Erica, is up to (we have here an early performance by scream queen Katherine Isabelle), when ever she’s not being allowed to open the hotel room door to complete strangers Sanderson is quite happy to let her be looked after by his blind chess coach. That’s who I would want keeping an eye on my kid when a serial killer is playing games with me.
I would have also appreciated a little bit more gore. The kills in this film are quite literally over in a flash, a bit more horror and suspense for these scenes would have been nice. I’m an Argento/Fulci guy, I’m not big on subtlety, and I think less is less. A bombastic Goblin score would have been excellent, too, though Anne Dudley’s score does work well, particularly for the great black and white opening.
Christopher Lambert, one of my favourite actors, like always, gives a great performance as the brooding chess Grandmaster, Peter Sanderson. That creepy glare of his (caused by the actors real-life severe myopia) adds a lot of menace to his character and never allowed me to rule out the possibility that Sanderson actually might be the killer. The entire supporting cast do good jobs. At the time, Diane Lane was Lambert’s wife, and so, unsurprisingly, the chemistry between them is good.
Knight Moves is a solid thriller. I would say it’s probably one of the best American giallo-like thrillers not to be made by Brian de Palma. It’s definitely worth watching. 7/10
By the way, Knight Moves’ writer, Brad Mirman, and lead actor, Christopher Lambert, would go on to write 1999’s Seven-esque thriller Resurrection together, a movie that more than makes up for the lack of gore in this one. I recommend that movie, too.