‘May the force be with you,’ quips cheeky private detective Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) as he passes a uniformed cop in LA; 1978 marks the beginning of the Star Wars referencing trend in movies. Adapted by Roger L Simon from his own book, Jeremy Kagan’s deliberately dishevelled political thriller was a modest hit back in the day, but has fallen into some kind of obscurity; a surprise return via imdbtv in the UK gives us a chance to reassess its virtues. With a pot-smoking, Jewish anti-hero at its centre, The Big Fix wears its anti-establishment credentials on its sleeve, and even if the story peters out, it’s still smart and savvy enough to be going on with.
Moses Wine was a sixties radical; ‘I’ve not rung doorbells since 67’ he demurs when asked to help with the political campaign of the milquetoast Miles Hawthorne, but his ex Lila (Susan Anspach) and some healthy financial compensation encourage Wine to put aside his moral qualms and find the man who Hawthorne believes is sabotaging his campaign. That man is Howard Eppis (F Murray Abraham), a fellow 60’s radical, now a recluse, and Wine is tasked with tracking him down. Wine’s out-of-service revolver has no bullets, and allowing his kids to play with the unloaded gun has resulted in a crayon firmly stuck in the nozzle; it’s going to take more than nostalgia to get Wine to his destination….
Dreyfuss was on a roll via Jaws and CE3K at the time, and he gives a good 70’s movie star performance here, enthusiastically chugging on his water pipe as he plays Cluedo with himself out of hours. There’s an array of up and coming support, including Die Hard’s Bonnie Bedelia and even a big role for John Lithgow as the sinister operative who brings Wine into play. There’s also a funny improvised joke in which Wine gives each character a different explanation for why his wrist is in a plaster cast; apparently Dreyfuss was in a skatebaording accident before shooting commenced.
Unfortunately, The Big Fix’s genial first half takes an abrupt dark turn halfway through with a shocking murder that’s not well integrated into the tone and mood of the film, and the finale involving a radio-controlled van full of explosives doesn’t feel cut from the same cloth as the free-wheeling, genial opening. Such qualms aside, The Big Fix has some salty dialogue, and a cool idea; how were the idealistic figures of 60’s radicalism absorbed into the cynical political culture of the late 70’s? The answers may ultimately be disappointing, but with a great cast and sunny LA location shooting, The Big Fix is worth a hazy, crazy trip down memory lane.