Night Game (1989)
Once again Roy Scheider is the reluctant hunter of a killer only this time his prey is on land as opposed to the sea and no he doesn’t revive his classic line, “Smile you son of a b—h” at the fadeout. If you have no idea what I’ve just referred to then perhaps you have stopped at the wrong website.
As for Roy? He’s the clichéd worn out veteran on the police force trying to piece together clues that will lead him to a serial killer who has a thing for ripping the throats out of beautiful blondes. Hoping to inject a different angle, the script allows the elderly Roy to have Karen Young as his fiancé, a far younger woman looking for a father figure I suppose.
With Houston as it’s backdrop, Roy is an avid fan of the Astros and as we’ll eventually find out, so is the killer for reasons only a scriptwriter could come up with. When Roy is called in to investigate and confirm that another victim has been claimed by the same killer following the opening credits, the plot clearly establishes that he’s a loose cannon on the force. He has a friend in his superior played by an effective Richard Bradford who one might assume is subbing in for Charles Durning. Durning made a career playing this role and surely was approached to play the part first. I’ll go one step further, if Burt Reynolds was in the Scheider role than we can bet the farm that Charlie would have played the role.
Aside from Bradford, Roy has an enemy as well at work. It’s Paul Gleason (Where the hell’s Beeks?). The two don’t like each other and seem to be competing for jurisdictional rights in apprehending the killer. By the time Lane Smith arrives as Bradford’s higher up, everyone wants to run the show and Roy in classic rebel fashion just doesn’t give a damn. All he wants is justice.
“If it’s not baseball it’s the killer.” says Karen Young to Roy. Her part of the story injects a bit of humor into the proceedings as she continually tries to keep the peace between Roy and her mother Carlin Glynn who it seems at one time actually had a fling with Roy. Now she’s kind of ticked that Roy is sleeping with her baby. And perhaps not her? Whichever, the main thrust of the story is Roy attempting to put this improbable motive together and find his man.
Roy Scheider could do little wrong in my eyes around this time and that’s due to the long shadow and influence he had upon me as a kid in his most famous role. Once again I’m not naming it. You should already know it. Here he’s got a decent role but the material is old and stale. The final unveiling of the killer and the chase is rather tame and tired. It’s all just a bit too convenient. On the plus side Roy’s chemistry with Bradford is rock solid. For a change Bradford gets a role where he isn’t a villain in a suit but a friend on the force who wants to do what’s right as opposed to kissing the ass of Lane Smith. Smith on the other hand plays the type of role he excels at. A politician with motives of his own.
Baseball trivia specialists might be interested in watching some of the footage featured of the Astros and I did pick up a few names as Roy listens to the radio broadcast while on patrol. Barry Bonds, remember him? I’m sure you do and the last names Gibson and Bonilla might also ring a bell. While Roy is romancing the much younger Young, the pair are to meet at the movie show where Full Moon in Blue Water is playing. A lesser known Gene Hackman entry that was SURPRISE, directed by Peter Masterson. The same Masterson who directed this flick which has resurfaced on blu ray thanks to Olive Films.
One more thing before I go, if you know the 1963 film Charade and George Kennedy’s part in it than perhaps you’ll agree with me that our actor portraying the killer, Rex Linn might have been OD’ing on late night viewings of the Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn mystery classic.
As I’m always trying to be a nice guy, here’s a link for all those who’ve lived under a rock most of their lives and can’t connect Roy Scheider to his and perhaps Steven Spielberg’s greatest triumph.