CIPC #140: Final move

One thing I haven’t done yet this year, is commenting on a chess-themed movie. More than a hundred blog posts ago, I commented on Lang leve de koningin and shortly before that on Knight moves. And for today, I found another one! It’s called Final move, the tag-line is ‘your next move may be your last’ and the ‘i’ in ‘final’ is a white queen which has been shot in the head, as you can see below. There’s going to be murder, action, suspense, and most of all chess. The cover promises us David Carradine, of Kill Bill fame, and Matt Schulze, from The fast and the furious. Let’s do this!

The third big star on the cover is a certain Rachel Hunter,1 who is billed as being known from Rockstar (whatever that may be). Even worse, the movie admits, in very small print, that it was produced by Joey Travolta. Let’s not do this. Then again, if I don’t, some other hapless chess enthusiast might be suckered in. Okay. Wish me luck.

A woman is held captive. She has been gagged and tied to her chair, but her right hand is free: she has to play chess with her captor. It is…, well, let’s say that it is a rather gruesome scene and that I’m surprised they managed to get away with a 16 rating. In fact, she is playing white in the following position:2

and tries to take the black queen with her king! Horrible! She’s killed for it.

There’s an opening credit scene. Nothing fancy; just names in a standard white font appearing over chessboard, on which the knight and bishops have swapped places! Dear Lord! This is going to be a long sit.

There’s an execution by electric chair, but not of the guy who came up with these credits; it’s just the murderer.

And there’s another murderer! He enters a woman’s home, bludgeons her head on the floor and tasers her, presumably because that’s with electricity, too, just like the electric chair, and it’s foreshadowing guys! We see a map of the city with a chessboard drawn on it and the pieces correctly laid out for a game. A shadowy hand plays 1.d4.2 Some detectives do some detecting and they find a black queen in the victim’s hand. Another shadowy hand plays 1. … Nf6, which makes for a surprisingly reasonable opening.

The detective goes to a psychiatric institution to fetch Marlowe, a former colleague who convicted the recently executed perpetrator of the chess piece murders. We meet some guy who is introduced a homeless chess-playing genius. He’s probably going to play a role once they are playing a game of chess with the killer – and that’s inevitably going to happen.

Some boring exposition that doesn’t really tell us anything, and then the shadowy hand is back! It takes a black pawn on d4 with a knight, while another knight looks on from c3. What happened here? Did he play 2. Nf3?3 Did play continue c5 3. Nc3 cxd4 perhaps? Or is this already another game? Giving the time elapsed this seems likely, but giving that it is a movie it seems unlikely.

Cut to the police station. David Carradine says he’s new in the local police force, but I find it hard to believe David Carradine is in any sense new. Apparently, the killer is playing chess with the police: he makes his moves by murdering people in certain places and then calls the cops to hear their reply.I knew this was going to happen! The police plays Bg7, the murderer kills someone new to play Bc4.

Marlowe has some kind of manic episode and goes out drinking. At dawn, he visits, his chess-playing hobo friend and they go over the murder moves together: 1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. Nc3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. e4 Bg7 6. Bc4. The hobo claims this is a Benkő gambit transformed into some kind of Sicilian dragon. How on Earth this is supposed to be a Benkő gambit is anyone’s guess.

Marlowe gets called and plays 0-0.

Forensics has found and checked some DNA samples: it matches the guy who was just murdered. Spooky!

The police find the guy killed for the move Be3, but I’m not quite sure how they ended up finding him. Or how they found their next suspected target’s location, for that matter, but find him they do: lynched in the elevator of some building.

The killer is still in the building. He wounds one of the officers and makes his way to the roof. There, in one of the funniest scenes of the movie, he does a forward roll for no reason whatsoever and shoots another cop who was hot on his heels.

Marlowe and the main detective catch up with him and a shoot-out ensues. The murderer manages to get away.

Of course, people at the police department are not happy about this. Apparently, there is a threat of being fired. And there’s another murder? But how? Didn’t white already play two moves?

Anyway, it turns out that a certain woman from the FBI who’s working on the case has visited the last victim – and she’s supposed to be home sick. Very suspicious! They go to visit her, but she claims she was attacked by one of their other suspects.

The shadowy hand plays Bc4 again? What’s going on here? Explain yourself, shadowy hand! This makes no sense!

They find their suspect dead in his chair. Probably, he didn’t do it.

In the meantime, and in complete accordance with the total hack’s guide to screenplay writing, the real perpetrator has attacked Marlowe’s house and has kidnapped his wife (girlfriend? second banana?) and daughter, leaving the officer who was supposed to be protecting them dead on the floor. Of course, his daughter is diabetic and needs her medicine, because otherwise, there would not be enough tension in this.

They go to the chess-playing hobo and find the voice deformer the killer used, but neither the killer nor the hobo. (I think we’re supposed to believe that’s just one person, at this point, but we don’t.)

The shadowy hand plays cxd4 again? I don’t understand these hand scenes.

They go to an abandoned warehouse. Finally! That means the end is coming closer. I’ve seen all of this in Knight moves.

The main detective gets shot, which is a slight difference with that movie. Marlowe finds his two favourite women tied to a chair in the middle of a giant hall, nicely decorated with some dynamite. He doesn’t see fit to untie them or remove the duct tape from their mouths.

In an unexpectedly stupid twist – and that’s taking into account very low expectations – the killer is, indeed, the FBI woman who once had a fling or possibly a relationship with Marlowe and is just jealous.

The main detective has gotten up again! He distracts the woman for just long enough that Marlowe can shoot her to bits and free his family.

We cut to a nice, sunny day in the park, with Marlowe playing against his hobo friend. The position is as follows:

and Marlowe, who has black, plays Qg2#, finishing both the game and – thank God! – the movie.

Final verdict: Skip. Don’t do it. It’s not even interestingly bad. There’s some really awful acting, the plot is terrible and derivative, there’s some questionable editing. Also, David Carradine was barely in this movie. Instead, we get a lot of Lochlyn Munro from White Chicks. Skip. Don’t do it.

1. [Who, at the time of writing, has the scariest featured picture I have ever seen on Wikipedia.]
2. [First, I wrote the commentary. Then, I made the diagrams as a final move.]
3. [Which is technically not a crime.]
4. [This plot point comes straight from Knight moves. It is also ridiculous as I explained in that blog post, for as often as not, there a several pieces that can move to a given square, so how do you tell, say, c4 apart from Bc4?]