The film centers on a thief named Quint (Tommy Lee Jones), who occasionally does work for the FBI. As the film opens, he swipes a data tape from a company which is under investigation by the feds. He makes his escape by heading into the California desert.
Meanwhile, nearby, a former NASA scientist and his driver are test driving a their experimental high-speed car…the Black Moon. This thing can hit speeds over 300 miles per hour. After a successful test, they load it onto a trailer and head for LA to pitch it to some investors. It’s at a desert gas station where they cross paths with Quint. This is also where Quint runs into an old rival named Marvin (Lee Ving). Marvin is now working security for the company Quint lifted the tape from. Since he’s in a pinch, Quint stashes the tape in the Black Moon.
This all seems pretty stupid on Quint’s part. But since he overheard the car guys say how they were heading to meet their investors at a certain upscale LA restaurant, Quint know just where to find them. As luck has it, though, a team of car thieves pose as valets at the restaurant and make off with as many cars in the lot as they can. The leader of the gang, Nina (Linda Hamilton), takes a special liking to the Black Moon and lifts it herself. It turns out, that Nina and her gang just work for a slimy tycoon called Ryland (Robert Vaughn), who supervises the whole operation from his twin skyscrapers.
Now, FBI agent Johnson (Bubba Smith) is on Quint’s case and gives him 72 hours to deliver the tape. Quint ends up striking up a relationship with Nina in his effort to try and get the Black Moon back (the two waste no time jumpin’ in the sack after barely meeting each other), and teams up with the car’s owners to assist in the attempt to break into Ryland’s buildings. Meanwhile, Marvin continues to pursue Quint, even beating him to a pulp one night. Things get worse when Ryland finds out about Nina’s involvement with Quint and he locks her up.. Now, the plan involves rescuing the girl and the car and getting the tape before time runs out.
I remember seeing the ads for this film when it was released in 1986. It had the look of being a sort of Knight Rider-ish movie featuring a mysterious guy and his supercar. In the end, the car actually doesn’t factor into the story very much. It spends most of the movie locked up in Robert Vaughn’s warehouse. The whole story is just build up to one major stunt featuring the car jumping from one high-rise building to another. The stunt is very predictable and poorly executed. I mean, you spend the whole movie figuring that the car is gonna do some cool stuff, but it never really happens. All the car does is go fast. I wanted it to have machine guns built into the headlights, or be able to drive up walls…something more exciting!
Though the story is pretty flat, Tommy Lee Jones is a lot of fun to watch. His laid back approach to his role is great! At times he’s funny, at times he’s super cool…and the whole time he’s a man of few words. It’s a nice departure from the typical over-cocky 80’s action hero. I just wish the material he had to work with was more worthy of his performance. Linda Hamilton does a decent job, but remember, when this was made she hadn’t done T2 yet. For me, something clicked when she did that movie that had often been lacking in her performances up to that point. As for Robert Vaughn, well, he’s wasted in this one. Cast as a villain who really has no opportunity to anything evil.
The film was written by John Carpenter. Though he didn’t direct the film, it definitely has that John Carpenter feel to it. The musical score even feels like Carpenter. He didn’t write the music for this one (he often writes the music for his own films), but it does have that recorded-in-someone’s-basement kind of feel.
In the end, “Black Moon Rising” is a lot of build up to a disappointing finish. Tommy Lee Jones does make it somewhat interesting, but it’s not enough to salvage the film. But if cool cars is the major factor in your opinion of a film…this is probably your “Citizen Kane.”