Black Moon Rising

3 out of 5

Directed by: Harley Cokliss

Within its B-movie-ish format and indulgences, Black Moon Rising is a solid – occasionally surprisingly so! – bit of 80s action. Its faux-sci-fi vibe – dig that automated text at the beginning – and thread of Unfortunate Events that lead to thief Sam Quint (Tommy Lee Jones) having to track down a particular MacGuffin-type item he’d stashed in a car which is then, subsequently, also stolen – hint at the John Carpenter script that kicked off the whole thing (subsequently additionally screenplayed by William Gray and Desmond Nakano), but the way it switches over into ante-up heist antics and corporate overlord types and requisite nudity muddle it back to something more generic, even if those antics are appreciably pulled off by director Harley Cokliss and Jones. The core gunslinger-type persona for Quint is maintained throughout, thankfully, and even if the souped-up car – that is the titular Black Moon, and the vehicle which Sam is chasing – and car thieving guild that hides out in two tall office buildings feel like unnecessary clutter, the way in which our lead is continually put out and beat up by various thugs makes for a fun, ground-level “hero” to watch, and his counterpart amongst the car thieves – Nina, played by Linda Hamilton – gets an equally compelling role in things, evolving past her initially 1-dimensional Badass Bitch persona, although still subjected to that “we need a sex scene here and you need to show your boobs” mentality that persisted through this era, and quite beyond.

Cokliss and cinematographer Misha Suslov pick a grounded and clean and not overly stylized look for the flick, which works well with its blend of high-concept and B-flick vibes; the action and fights are also well-handled – for the former, I was often pretty astounded that they took things to the level they did and pulled it off effectively, and to the latter, because Quint gets his ass kicked several times, they go in for pretty mean-spirited tussles, which are a nice twist on the tried-and-true more heroic variants.

There’re plenty of 80s and bad-movie trappings all over Black Moon Rising, but the Carpenter backbone definitely gives it a leg up, and the otherwise more formless sections are shaped up by enjoyable performances from Jones and Hamilton, and a quality crafting from director Harley Cokliss.