Plot: Moses (Richard Dreyfuss) is not the typical private detective, as he sometimes has to take his kids on stakeouts and while his knowledge of the law is remarkable, he has issues with how that knowledge is practiced. He could be a lawyer, but his ideals have remained important to him, despite the changes both he and the world have gone through since his activist college days. His preference for principles over ambition is one reason his marriage failed, but he takes solace in the little ways he can contribute to the world via his work. When former flame Lila (Susan Anspach) re-enters his life, he falls hard for her, but he also winds up pulled into some political drama, as she hires him to investigate the woes of a current gubernatorial candidate. Moses is to uncover the truth about a propaganda campaign being waged against the politician, while he also balances his ideals, his family, and his feelings for Lila.
Entertainment Value: The Big Fix has about all you could want from a private eye movie, with roots in the old school approach, but also updated to reflect the world of the time it was produced. The narrative hits all the usual genre beats and keeps you reeled in, but is also driven by some terrific character depth, as Moses is given good depth and internal struggles. The idea of principles versus ambition is a universal one, so it is easy to relate to Moses and the people around him, as most people have likely struggled with similar thought processes. I loved all the colorful, eccentric characters and while not all are given a lot of screen time, I think it still helps built the atmosphere of the world Moses inhabits. Moses himself is an interesting character as well, not the usual private detective and he feels like a real, believable person, not some super investigator or collection of genre cliches. A fresh lead character like this can work wonders and I think it is one reason The Big Fix works so well. The pace is deliberate, but doesn’t feel slow and I think some viewers will appreciate the 70s vibes that permeate the picture, or at least I did. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in private eye stories, as it is well made and has some fresh twists.
I think this movie has one of Richard Dreyfuss’ best performances and given his career, that is not small praise. As I said before, his character just feels believable and that is important here, as the film is populated with colorful folks and sometimes convoluted twists, so he grounds the entire picture. Even as the plot runs off the rails at times, his presence anchors the narrative and makes sure we remain hooked, not a simple task, but he nails it. While he is one of the more believable characters here, that’s not to say he is dull or routine, not in the least. He is excitable and well developed, a fun character to watch, especially when he mixes with the more eclectic personas found wandering around The Big Fix. I just really like this character and performance, such a breath of fresh air in the private eye genre, I think. Bonnie Bedelia and Susan Anspach also turn in rock solid efforts as the women in Moses’ life and thanks to the writing, they’re given depth and development to work with. The cast also includes John Lithgow, Mandy Patinkin, David Gale, and F. Murray Abraham.
The Disc: Twilight Time has released The Big Fix on Blu-ray, in a great looking treatment that fans will appreciate. I had only seen the movie on a made on demand DVD that looked watchable, but this new presentation trumps that one on all fronts, much cleaner and sharper here. The colors are natural and the visuals have some grit, thanks to the inherent grain, which is preserved in this release. I found detail to be quite good, a marked improvement over the DVD, without question. The extras include an isolated music track and the film’s trailer.