When an actor co-produces his first film and stars in it, his performance often contains an element of dis-
traction, as if the on-camera self is busy sorting out off-screen problems. This feeling is intensified in The Big Fix with Richard Dreyfuss playing a lowkeyed, cynically witty private detective, Moses Wine, involved in a cockamamy plot so muddled it’ll drive anyone to distraction trying to make sense out of it.
Wine is hired to find out why a former radical political activist named Howard Eppis, swallowed up by the underground years ago, is apparently trying to corrupt the campaign of a can-
didate for California governor. He takes the case because Lila, (Susan Anspach), a beautiful cohort in peace marches from his socially conscious Berkeley days, begs him to; he’s tired of sitting home alone playing Clue and he’s behind in alimony payments to his ex-wife (Bonnie Bedelía) and two kids. The film ambles along with Wine picking up information between baby-sitting assignments until a friend’s murder causes an abrupt shift in mood. Menace settles over it like a cloud of Los Angeles smog and the camera busies itself making threatening halos out of car lights and late-night neon.
It’s possible that director Jeremy Paul Kagan is trying to echo the atmospheric enigmas and dense style of The Big Sleep, but the film is more obviously a requiem for the ’60s. After Wine finally tracks down Eppis, now a cleancut ad copywriter, they get drunk and dance around the pool singing old protest songs; the mood wavers between the sad, funny, and bitingly ironic. Floundering in ill-defined nostalgia, it shifts abruptly to an endnote of ’70s terrorism and sends Wine rushing off to stop the L.A. freeway from being blown up.
Dreyfuss is able to don a tweed jacket and soft moustache for The Big Fix and still come up smiling—the awesome Dreyfus energy pummels the role into some kind of shape. The rest of the cast is merely peripheral. The film keeps falling into blobs of ’60s sentimentone that continually clogs up the thrillseeking plot mechanism.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.