Knight Moves (1992) from Tuna

Knight Moves (1992) is supposed to be a mystery thriller. The only mystery to me was why they made this thing. I hesitate to apply the term spoiler to my review, as nothing I could do could possibly make it any worse. We open with two kids playing chess in a tournament. The loser stabs the winner in the hand with a fountain pen, is checked into a mental hospital, is abandoned by his father, and sees his mother dead of a bloody suicide.
Cut to the present and a chess tournament to determine who will play for the world championships. Someone starts killing women, and claiming that he is playing a game with grand master Peter Sanderson (Christopher Lambert). He challenges Sanderson to solve the mystery, while framing him for the murders in the eyes of the police.


Diane Lane shows her breasts in a poorly lit scene, as does Kehli O'Byrne as the first murder victim
That was a pretty good set-up for an action thriller, but not a mystery.

If Sanderson wasn't the youthful chess winner in the opening scenes, and the killer the loser, there would have been absolutely no point to the opening scenes!!

Still, the director tries to manipulate us into thinking Sanderson is guilty several times. A shrink, played by Diane Lane, is brought in by the police to figure out if Sanderson is a psychopath. We are also asked to be surprised when the two become intimate. Finally, we are asked to be surprised when the killer's last target is Sanderson's daughter. Acting was second rate, the sets were drab and uninteresting, and I was able to give Mrs. Tuna a detailed plot summary 5 minutes into this film.

Scoop's thoughts:

Tuna and Berardinelli really hated the film. I didn't think it was great, but for me it was just another ho-hum genre pic, maybe better than a lot of them.

The characterizations are very weak, I agree on that point. The usually dependable Tom Skeritt couldn't find anything to sink his teeth into. Daniel Baldwin was offensive and irritating, and much too unrealistically stupid to be a top detective. The killer should have been given a medal for killing him. Christopher Lambert was  .... well, he was Christopher Lambert, which pretty much defines suckiosity at its zenith. Diane Lane really gave the only credible performance. (Lambert and Lane were married at the time.)

I give mixed reviews to the film technique. I liked the way the director composed some of the shots, but I really hated the desaturated faded colors and the poor lighting. The damned movie is almost in black and white, and it's more like black and dark gray.

The script wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. I never suspected that Lambert was the killer, despite the fact that he never seemed to have an alibi, and I agreed with Tuna that it had to be the little kid from the opening sequence, but I never determined who that grew up to be. The script misdirected us to a fellow grandmaster, to the detective, to the kindly old mentor, to Diane Lane's assistant, and I never really put it all together, but I have to give the script credit for one thing. The clues did point correctly to the killer, I just didn't figure them all out.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • The DVD quality is appropriate to the film quality. It is letterboxed, small, dark, and washed out. Rent at your own risk

  • no features

  • letterboxed 2.35:1, that doesn't seem to play in the proper aspect ratio

It had to be somebody whose voice would be known to Lambert, because he disguised it. It had to be somebody who knew chess. It had to be somebody who was not present in the room with Lambert when the killer was on the phone. And it had to be a computer expert, to hack into a real estate database. It was all there, it all made sense, and I saw it all, but I couldn't put it together, although maybe I should have.

The killer also made his kills in a certain pattern, and left one word behind with each kill, so there were other things to "play along" with and hold my interest.

By the way, as indicated in the DVD box, I couldn't get the film to play in any format that would result in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, so I think something may have been mastered incorrectly.

Is it a good movie? No, not good. But I didn't hate it.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: less than two stars. Berardinelli 1/4, Maltin 2.5/4. Berardinelli hated it, but liked it better than Tuna did.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.7
  • With their dollars ... a million dollars gross in limited release
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Tuna grades this film an E, Scoopy a C-.

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