Inside Moves

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Feb 27, 2009
  • Format: DVD
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Director

Richard Donner

Release Date(s)

1980 (February 3, 2009)

Studio(s)

ITC Entertainment (Lionsgate)

Review

When you think of the films of Richard Donner, you likely think of big-budget action-adventures like The Goonies or the Lethal Weapon series. But back in 1980, Donner followed up Superman with Inside Moves, a quiet, low-key drama more in keeping with the films of Hal Ashby than Dick Donner. Despite a cult following and winning an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress Diana Scarwid, it's never been released on DVD. That is, until now.

John Savage stars as Roary, an emotionally and now physically damaged man, thanks to a failed suicide attempt. (Interestingly, Roary was a Vietnam veteran in Todd Walton's original novel and though the detail is omitted from the film, I always felt it was implied thanks to the time period and Savage's appearance.)

After his release from the hospital, Roary starts hanging out at Max's Bar, a favorite spot of other physically handicapped characters including paraplegic Blue Lewis (Bill Henderson), blind Stinky (Bert Remsen) and Wings, whose hands have been replaced with prosthetic hooks (played by Harold Russell, making his first screen appearance since The Best Years of Our Lives back in 1946). Roary becomes best friends with Jerry the bartender (David Morse in his first film), whose dreams of playing pro basketball have been thwarted thanks to a leg injury that requires an expensive operation. Roary's new relationships help set him on the road to recovery but when he helps Jerry get his operation, his closest friendship is put to the test.

Inside Moves is an intimate character study with uniformly strong performances by the entire cast. Savage is particularly good and the movie's release on DVD is a welcome reminder that this terrific actor should be used a lot more frequently than he currently is. The movie has a number of individual moments that resonate with emotion and power, including a warm Christmas party sequence at the bar filled with heart and a real sense of community. Depending on how much you personally identify with these damaged characters, these moments may be enough to transform Inside Moves into a great little movie. They weren't quite enough for me although there is a lot to recommend. Although it's very much a character piece, we aren't always given enough information about these people's histories to make everything ring true. In its own way, Inside Moves requires a fair amount of willing suspension of disbelief. If you can do that, the movie is an affectionate, even inspiring piece of work.

Finally available on DVD, Inside Moves looks and sounds older than it actually is. Bear in mind however, this was a low-budget, independently produced picture made almost thirty years ago. I believe Lionsgate did the best possible job they could given the materials they had to work with. The disc also includes a handful of well-done bonus features. The featurette From the Inside Out focuses primarily on Todd Walton's novel and includes interviews with the novelist and Richard Donner on the book's journey to the screen. Donner also provides a commentary along with Brian Helgeland. Helgeland would later work with Donner on Assassins and Conspiracy Theory and here serves as interviewer. It's a reasonably good track with virtually no overlap between it and the documentary and very little dead air. Finally, the disc provides a PDF copy of Donner's shooting script (written by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson).

While Inside Moves isn't the long-lost classic I might have wished for, Lionsgate deserves thanks for bringing this unfairly neglected movie to DVD. At the very least, it's a fascinating footnote in the career of Richard Donner. At best, it's a showcase for some fine ensemble acting and might just represent a road not taken for the director who made you believe a man could fly.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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by Adam Jahnke