DirectorJeremy Paul Kagan
Release Date(s)1978 (March 19, 2019)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C
The Big Fix stars Richard Dreyfuss as Moses Wine, a character created by Roger L. Simon in a series of private-eye novels. A former Berkeley 1960s radical, Moses by 1978 has abandoned his rebellious idealism and moved to Los Angeles to work as a private detective. A divorced father who tracks down leads while babysitting for his two young sons, he’s a modern version of the classic noir private eye with far less menace and a lot more angst. His former wife (Bonnie Bedelia) divorced him because he refused to become a lawyer and provide security for the family. She is living with her New Age guru (Ron Rifkin) while Moses ekes out a living taking such unremarkable jobs as checking out fraud at a poultry packing plant.
A knock on his door brings back a girlfriend from his past – Lila Shay (Susan Anspach). Lila works for a political candidate whose campaign is being undermined by propaganda tying him to Howard Eppis (F. Murray Abraham), a notorious 60s radical who has gone underground. Lila offers Moses a job: find out who’s printing the damaging pamphlets and locate Eppis. Moses is happy to see his old love and, needing the cash, quickly accepts the job. He meets with campaign manager Sam Sebastian (John Lithgow), who gives him some expense money and suggests places to start his investigation.
At this point, the film becomes a procedural as Moses attempts to make sense of things he learns during his investigation, which leads in unexpected and dangerous directions. The story meanders through politics, hidden motives, domestic conflict, and murder. Moses is depicted as a cool guy, smarter than law enforcement, who is passionate about his job, even while trying to be a father to his boys. That’s the personal touch. Moses may be good at his job, but comes up short as a dad.
Director Jeremy Kagan does a fairly effective job with an established Hollywood genre but never really grabs the viewer because of the movie’s many tendrils. He establishes Moses as a not-very-successful private eye who gets a chance to get his teeth into a bigger case than he’s ever had, one that’s become extremely personal due to tragic developments.
Dreyfuss is natural in the scenes with his kids and in some early wisecracking moments when we see that this down-on-his luck guy has a huge chip on his shoulder, made heavier by his personal problems. But he overacts in a few critical scenes as if he’s still the obsessed, near-crazed Roy Neary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The Big Fix is a middling neo-noir that tries to recall the key ingredients of classic noir but never achieves adequate suspense with a less-than-compelling story.
The all-region Blu-ray release from Twilight Time, featuring 1080p High Definition resolution, is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Visual quality is sharp throughout, with no noticeable imperfections in the print. The color palette is dark – browns, blacks – in Moses’ dingy, cluttered apartment. The street scenes in L.A. are sunny and bright, and a nighttime car chase is made more dramatic by sparks shooting off the cars as they make hairpin turns. In a nod to film noirs of the 40s and 50s, scenes in the campaign office feature prominent Venetian blind shadows falling across the faces of Moses and Sebastian.
The soundtrack is English 1.0 DTS-High Definition Master Audio. English subtitles are available for the deaf and hard of hearing. Sound is distinct throughout, with dialogue dominating. During exterior scenes, dialogue can be heard well, with ambient street noise properly balanced. Machine gun effects sound kind of tinny and don’t line up dramatically with the “bullet hits” on furniture, walls, and breaking windows in a critical scene.
The PG-rated 108-minute Blu-ray is released as a Limited Edition of 3,000 units. Bonus materials include an isolated music soundtrack, the theatrical trailer, the Twilight Time catalogue, and an insert booklet.
Isolated Music Track – The Bill Conti score is heard with dialogue and sound effects muted as the film plays.
Twilight Catalogue – Twilight Time Blu-ray releases from 2011 through 2019 are listed in a click-on menu.
Booklet – An 8-page insert booklet features a critical essay by Julie Kirgo, 6 color photos from the film, and a reproduction of the movie’s original poster.
– Dennis Seuling