Apparently, today is the opening day of the 2017 baseball season. The only reason that I know that is because of my sister Erin. I don’t know much about baseball, to be honest. I know that my city’s team is the Texas Rangers and they were once owned by George W. Bush. I know that Houston has a team called the Astros. But, really, the main thing that I know about baseball is that my sister absolutely loves it.
So, when Erin asked me to review a baseball movie today, how could I say no? I mean, I may know next to nothing about baseball but I certainly know something about movies!
For that reason, I’m going to take a few minutes to tell you about a 1989 film called Night Game. Night Game is many things. It’s a movies that features a lot of baseball, even though it’s not really a sports film per se. It’s a police procedural, though the film itself suggests that the police often don’t have the slightest idea what they’re actually doing. It’s a serial killer film, though its killer is never quite as loquacious as we’ve come to expect in this age of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan. At times, it’s a slasher film, though it’s never particularly graphic. Mostly, Night Game is a Texas film.
Directed by native Texan Peter Masterson, Night Game is like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it is one of those rare films that not only takes place in Texas but was actually filmed on location. To be exact, Night Game was filmed in both Galveston and Houston. The entire film has a friendly and quirky Texas feel to it. Masterson may not have been a great visual director (If not for some language and nudity, Night Game could pass for a TV movie) but Night Game is a movie where the plot is less important than capturing the little details of a time. a location, and the people who lived there. Though Night Game is 28 years old, it’s portrait of my home state still seemed very contemporary to me. I guess Texas hasn’t really changed that much over the past few decades.
As for the film’s plot, someone is murdering young women in Galveston and leaving their bodies on the boardwalk. Obviously, that’s not going to be good for attracting Spring Break revelers. The film doesn’t make any effort to keep the murderer’s identity a secret. We see his face fairly early on. We also see that he has a hook for a hand. Eventually, we do learn the murderer’s motives. They’re pretty silly but then again, individual motives rarely make sense to anyone other than the guy with the hook for a hand.
Detective Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider) has been assigned to solve the case. One thing that I really liked about Night Game was that Mike was pretty much just a normal guy with a job to do. He wasn’t self-destructive. He wasn’t always drunk. He wasn’t suicidal. He wasn’t always lighting a cigarette and staring at the world through bloodshot eyes while the lighting reflected off of his artful stubble. He was just a detective trying to do his job and get home on time. After sitting through countless films about self-destructive cops and criminal profilers, the normalcy of Mike was a nice change of pace.
Mike does have a backstory. He used to play baseball and he still loves the game. He goes to every Astros home game in Houston. He’s in love with Roxy (Karen Young), who works at the stadium. Things are only slightly complicated by the fact that Mike had a previous relationship with Roxy’s mother (Carlin Glynn). Don’t worry, Mike’s not secretly Roxy’s father or anything like that. It’s not that type of movie.
Anyway, Mike is such a fan of baseball that he realizes something. The killer only strikes on nights that the Astros win a game. And he only strikes if a certain pitcher was throwing the ball. The obvious solution would be to shoot the pitcher in the arm and end his athletic career. However, Mike’s too nice a guy to do that. Instead, he just tries to track down the killer…
And, as I said, Night Game actually isn’t a bad little movie. Make no mistake, it’s a very slight movie. At no point are you going to say, “I’m going to remember that scene for the rest of my life!” That said, it’s a surprisingly good-natured film and Roy Scheider’s performance is likable and unexpectedly warm. With all that in mind, Night Game is an entertaining and (mildly) bloody valentine to my home state.
Plus, it’s a baseball movie! I don’t know much about baseball but, if my sister loves it, it has to be a good thing!