BLACK MOON RISING: Genre Kings & Queen Assemble For Sci-Fi Heist [Blu Review]

Tommy Lee Jones as youthful, daring cat burglar?

The talent involved with Black Moon Rising makes it simply irresistible. With a script based on an original draft by genre legend John Carpenter, a score by Lalo Schifrin, and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Hamilton, Robert Vaughn, Richard Jaeckel, and even Police Academy’s Bubba Smith, there’s simply an embarrassment of riches, talent-wise, involved with this film.

It’s probably never much more than the sum of its curious parts, but ultimately does result in an enjoyable ride.

Perhaps the biggest knock against the film is that the star and the character archetype he is playing never quite gel. I adore Tommy Lee Jones and have so for decades. Black Moon Rising came earlier in his career and he’s playing this dashing, sexy, cavalier cat burglar who wears all black and drives fast cars. It’s the type of badass action hero who gets introduced by diffusing a convenience store robbery before the opening credits. You know, just like half a dozen other action heroes. Yet I just categorically have trouble accepting Jones as a youthful swashbuckler type. Maybe it’s just me, but the central casting never feels entirely right. Jones gives a perfectly solid performance, it’s just that his legend casts an imposing shadow over this outlier of a role in his career.

That said, Linda Hamilton actually acquits herself quite well and has a meatier role than your average female love interest. Jones plays Quint, a hotshot thief who’s been conscripted by the government to steal some files from a big, shady corporation. By chance he encounters the crew of the Black Moon, a prototype car that runs on hydrogen and can hit over 300 miles per hour. Stashing his stolen files in the car in a pinch, he becomes mixed up in a wider plot as Hamilton and a group of high end car thieves steal the Black Moon and dozens of other cars. It turns out Hamilton’s Nina is the tough, capable lieutenant for Robert Vaughn’s Ryland, a possessive criminal mastermind who’s built an empire out of stealing cars. Trouble is, Ryland wants to own Nina, and Nina wants out. A bit of a love… rectangle?… forms between Quint, Nina, Ryland, and that super cool car.

For a movie called Black Moon Rising, the slick-looking car at the center of it all gets very little screen time. The filmmakers were able to find a very sleek prototype vehicle and used it largely “as is” for the production. Of course, the practical car was neither capable of super high speeds or of running on hydrogen, but through movie magic it always manages to look awesome on screen. It helps that Schifrin’s futuristic electronic score pulses throughout as the car zooms around town.

Aside from the future-car elements, Black Moon Rising is largely an action-heist movie complete with assembling a crew, pouring over maps and schematics, and executing the ultimate escape. It succeeds pretty wildly in these regards. Vaughn cuts an imposing villain, we’re rooting for Nina to escape out from under his possessive clutches, and Jones cracks wise, kicks ass, and burns rubber. Director Harley Cokeliss delivers a solid film balancing lots of disparate elements and keeps them all together in a cohesive package. Schifrin’s score elevates everything a notch, as does Hamilton. And the very name of John Carpenter attached gives Black Moon Rising an air of genre royalty. It may not be a top notch entry on the resumes of most involved with it, but the film certainly benefits from having all that talent involved.

The Package

Treated with all the dignity it deserves due to all the Hollywood royalty attached, this Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray release is absolutely stacked with bonus features. Kino loaded the bonus features with historians and experts who wax eloquently across a commentary track and a video essay and more. You’ll come away from this disc having a full context for the origins of the film, all the way through the production and audience reception. It’s absolutely astounding to have a film this largely forgotten by mainstream culture treated with such reverence. It’s a genre fan’s dream come true.

  • Commentary Track W/ Historian Lee Gambin
  • Interview W/ Director Harvey Cokeliss
  • Interview W/ Producer Douglas Curtis
  • Interview W/ Composer Lalo Schifrin
  • Video Essay on John Carpenter by author Troy Howarth
  • An archival “making of” documentary
  • An alternate Hong Kong version

And I’m Out

Black Moon Rising is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Previous post FURIE: Vietnam’s Veronica Ngo is a Full-On Action Queen
Next post STUBER: Uproarious Laughter in Old School Action-Comedy Package