The FBI needs someone to steal a computer disk that can bring down a corrupt Las Vegas corporation so they hire reformed thief Sam Quint (Tommy Lee Jones). Quint manages to steal the disk but he finds himself being pursued by Ringer (Lee Ving), an old acquaintance who now works for the corporation. In order to keep the disk from falling into Ringer’s hands, Quint hides it in the back bumper of an experimental racing car called the Black Moon. The Black Moon, which runs on water and can fly when it reaches its top speed, is being taken to Los Angeles by Earl Windom (Richard Jaeckel) so Quint assumes that he’ll just follow Window to L.A. and then retrieve the disk when no one is watching.
However, as soon as the Black Moon arrives in Los Angeles, it’s stolen by Nina (Linda Hamilton). Nina works for Ed Ryland (Robert Vaughn), an outwardly respectable businessman who secretly runs a syndicate of car thieves. Now, Quint and Nina (who conventiently falls in love with Quint) have to steal the car back from Ryland while staying one step ahead of both Ringer and the FBI.
Black Moon Rising is not a movie that you watch for the plot or for the non-existent romantic chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Hamilton. You don’t even watch it for the white collar villainy of Robert Vaughn, who basically just recycles his performance from Superman III. This is a movie that you watch for the car! The Black Moon is definitely an impressive vehicle. Who wouldn’t want to steal one of these?
In a car chase movie like Black Moon Rising, the most important thing is that the car must be cool. The Black Moon looks like something Mad Max would drive and it can actually fly so, by definition, it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, Black Moon Rising doesn’t spend as much time with the car as it should. The movie gets bogged down with the scenes of Quint and Nina falling in love and Quint having to deal with his FBI handler (played by Bubba Smith). This is a film that would have benefited from being directed by someone like Hal Needham, who understood that people don’t come to car chase movies for the plot. They come to car chase movies because they want to see people driving fast and cars crashing in spectacular ways. Still, even though the car isn’t onscreen as much as it should be, the car is still cool enough to make Black Moon Rising watchable.
One final note: the screenplay is credited to John Carpenter. Though the imdb claims that this was the first script that Carpenter ever sold and that the film spent ten years in development, Carpenter says that he wrote the script around the same time that he made Escape from New York. He also says that he’s never actually seen the completed film.