Inside Moves Movie Review
The lead outcast here is Roary (John Savage), who attempts to end his life by jumping from a 10-story window. Through dumb luck he survives, but emerges months later from the hospital with a crippled leg and a broken spirit. Desperate for something to do, he heads over to the local bar, Max's, which looks like the kind of place that serves nothing but procrastination and broken dreams.
Actually, Max's is quite the opposite, a friendly second home to a variety of folks with permanent ailments, including the bartender, Jerry (David Morse), a former basketball star with a bum leg. The cheery fellow befriends Roary instantly, taking him to basketball games and bringing him into his dysfunctional life. When Jerry's life goes out of control, Roary gets it back on course, buying Max's and finding a pro basketball star (Harold Sylvester) to fund the surgery that allows Jerry another chance at athletic stardom.
That's an awful lot to swallow, and I'm not even including Jerry's druggie girlfriend (Amy Wright), the pimp (Tony Burton) she leaves him for, and a gimpy Morse's ridiculous one-on-one game with Sylvester. In the hands of a more patient director, we could believe all of this. A director in his or her element would have fleshed out the characters, spaced out the life events, and pared down the big moments that dominate Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson's script.
None of that ever happens. There is so much high drama and splendid triumph that the movie loses any basis in reality, so it's impossible to relate to what anyone's enduring. Sure, Jerry gets the surgery to fix his leg, but would he really make the NBA after playing semi-pro ball for, like, a week? OK, so the borderline crazy person buys a bar so he can save the one place he calls home. But what are the odds that the bar would then go on to do big business by selling grilled sandwiches? By the time Roary hooks up with the hot bartender (Diana Scarwid, in a performance that bafflingly earned her an Oscar nomination), you're just hoping that the finale doesn't feature Jerry dunking over the Boston Celtics.
In a movie that demands patience and introspection, Donner connects characters with no build-up or context; the movie feels like it's always trying to catch up with itself, while the characters become emotionally damaged bystanders. Morse (in his screen debut) and Savage give solid performances, but they get crushed by the movie's sheer speed and emotional excess. They're practically strangers here.
Inside Moves is a well-intentioned film that has its heart in the right place. It's a noble attempt on Donner's part, but it's clear that the project is beyond his skill set. Donner certainly rebounded, though it's not clear if viewers will.