The Big Fix is a sadly little-seen neo-noir that came out at the tail end of the ’70s and is ripe for rediscovery. It’s based on a novel by Roger L. Simon, who at the time of writing the novel was fairly left-leaning but has moved increasingly to the right since the ‘90s—he is currently the editor-at-large of The Epoch Times, a rag widely known for its conspiracy theories and producing ads for Donald Trump, Simon wrote a piece claiming the insurrection attempt at the capital on January 6th was a “false-flag” operation. The fact that Simon has turned far-right isn’t lost on the film, which is very much about that hazy ’70s after the radicalism of the ’60s, and trying to figure out whether there is any spark left of radicalism left in you or if instead you are completely deflated.
Richard Dreyfuss plays Moses Wine, a former student radical who is now a private investigator very much in the vein of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. He is at a crossroads between his student radicalism and trying to make a living so he can have a comfortable middle-class life and be a single father to his two kids, whom he often takes on stake-outs. One of Moses’s old exes is working on the gubernatorial campaign for Miles Hawthorne, who is a kind of nice liberal Jimmy Carter type. She hires him to investigate a flyer campaign against Hawthorne. The flyers depict Hawthorne with Howard Eppis, who is very obviously based on Abbie Hoffman. It’s interesting that the film’s director, Jeremy Paul Kagan, would go on to direct the excellent HBO movie Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8. Unlike Simon, Kagan is still a big leftie.
Once Moses is hired to investigate who is behind these flyers, he goes on a slightly kooky little ride around late ’70s Los Angeles. Much in the vein of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, “the plot” takes a back seat to just the vibe of the film (although The Long Goodbye wraps everything up very well by the end) and Richard Dreyfuss doing his Jewish ex-hippie gumshoe schtick. It just has a wonderful sense of time and place, from his ex-wife who has gone all new age to the cars to Moses’ corduroy jacket. I seriously wonder if Shane Black is a fan, because The Nice Guys does something not too dissimilar.
The cast is also just excellent, with Dreyfuss giving one of his most enjoyable performances. He broke his arm before they started shooting, and instead of delaying the film they just incorporated that into the film, so he comes up with various funny stories about why he broke his arm throughout the film. Dreyfuss was at the height of his career, with this film coming after Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl, which he won the Oscar for best actor. He developed a cocaine addiction around this time, which then derailed his career for the first half of the ’80s. John Lithgow appears in the film, and for maybe the only time in cinematic history he is believable as a youngish character alongside an even younger F. Murray Abraham. The rest of the cast are just great character actors you will recognise, like Ron Rifkin.
The Big Fix is a great little hippie-noir, even with its overly convoluted plot. But as Hunter S. Thompson famously wrote in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “Buy the ticket, take the ride”—you won’t be disappointed. The release from Indicator includes a commentary from Little White Lies’ David Jenkins, new interviews with Kagan and Simon (Simon’s is pretty rubbish, and you can see some of the right-wing trash he has been reading of late behind him), plus some archival TV interviews with Dreyfuss, Kagan, Simon and producer Carl Borack. The original theatrical trailer, TV spot and radio spots finish off the extras on the disc. The booklet includes a new essay by Andrew Nette, an introduction by Richard Dreyfuss, archival interviews with Jeremy Paul Kagan and costume designer Edith Head, and an overview of critical responses.