Questions of character

King's Game played for psycho shocks

Published: Mar 29 2015, 01:01:am

Monday. February 1, 1993
KNIGHT MOVES. Written by Brad Mirman. Music by Anne Dudley. Directed by Carl Schenkel. Running time: 104 minutes. Rated 14 Years Limited Admission with the B.C. Classifier's warning "some violence, very coarse language, occasional nudity and suggestive scenes."
    When local police chief Frank Sedman (Tom Skerritt) asks psychologist Kathy Sheppard (Diane Lane) to covertly assess visiting chess grandmaster Peter Sanderson (Christopher Lambert), the pretty young clinician strips down to a towel and has an "accidental" encounter with Sanderson in his hotel's steam room.
    Only afterwards does she learn that Sanderson is suspected of having recently murdered another pretty young woman.
      "You sent me into a dangerous situation," she says, outraged, "without even warning me!"
    We get dumber.
    When someone claiming to be the killer begins telephoning Sanderson, the Roxbridge police enlist his co-operation in tracing the calls. During the first attempt, aggressive homicide detective Andy Wagner (Daniel Baldwin) grabs the receiver away from Sanderson and harangues the caller.
    Knight Moves, based on a breathtakingly moronic screenplay by Brad Mirman, is as dumb as they come. A psycho-killer thriller in the Italo-German tradition, it busts a gut to create a "look" without any thought for credible characters.
    Swiss-born director Carl (The Mighty Quinn) Schenkel sets the scene with an expressionist black-and-white flashback to a 1972 Washington State Chess Tournament. We see one teenaged boy losing to another, and going ballistic as a result.
    Shortly afterward, the violent kid's dad leaves, and his mom commits suicide. Moving ahead to present time, we find the adult Sanderson playing in an International Grandmasters Chess Tournament.
    So, we are supposed to wonder, which of the two teenaged players was he? And, who is killing the pretty blondes of modern Roxbridge, draining the blood from their bodies and making them up to look like kewpie-doll angels?
    Then, at the very moment when things should be getting interesting, some even more pressing questions arise. Questions like, "why is that female psychologist acting like a bimbo?
    "Why is that police detective acting like a poorly toilet-trained orangutan?
     "Why is his police chief acting like a brain-damaged turnip?
    "Why can't a reputedly serious actor, Christopher Lambert, act any better than Dolf Lundgren?"
    Coming soon to home video, Knight Moves was filmed on location in Vancouver and Victoria.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1993. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: I'll never forget the intensity my newsroom colleague Paul Raugust brought to his coverage of chess in Vancouver in the mid-1970s. Chess?, I hear you say. Yes, the Vancouver Province actually covered chess tournaments in the day. Over the years such player personalities as David Creemer, W.E. Frank Fillery, Nathan Divinsky (best remembered as Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell's ex-husband) and Bruce Harper were Province chess columnists. Nor can we forget The End (1998), the fifth season finale for television's The X-Files. I believe it was the only episode of that show to be set in Vancouver, the city that was home to the production during its first five years on the air. Designed as a farewell and thank you to the city, it included a climactic scene shot in in the GM Place hockey arena. Fans of the show were invited to play the spectators at an international chess tournament, and some 12,000 turned out. Both a joke and a compliment, it was show creator Chris Carter's way of telling the world that Vancouver was the sort of place where chess and excitement belonged in the same sentence.
    Christopher Lambert, celebrating his 58th birthday today, was actually born in the U.S., the son of a French diplomat assigned to the United Nations delegation. He grew up in Geneva, making his screen debut as an uncredited kid in the 1963 Jerry Lewis comedy Who's Minding the Store? In 1984, after seven French feature-film appearances with credits, he made his English-language debut, playing the title role in 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. He's best remembered, though, as Connor MacLeod, the title character in the 1986 adventure fantasy Highlander. In an example of truly eccentric casting, Frenchman Lambert played a Scot opposite professional Scot Sean Connery, who was cast as a Spaniard. It worked well enough that Lambert returned for three of the picture's four sequels (1991; 1994; 2000). The year that Knight Moves was released, Lambert also was seen in the pilot episode of the Highlander TV series, a show that divided its filming time between Vancouver and locations in France for six seasons. Preferring France (where he has a partnership in a vineyard that produces côtes-du-Rhône wines) to Hollywood, he has made his career in European films, though he did visit Vancouver once more for the 1995 suspense feature The Hunted.