Roary (John Savage) has been in a bad way since his suicide attempt. He had walked into an office block and reached one of the top floors, whereupon he entered an empty room, opened the window and launched himself into the air, but a tree broke his fall and when he landed he was still alive, if seriously injured. A long spell in hospital followed, but now he is out and back in his small apartment, not really thinking about anything of the future except where he can get a good drink. So it is Roary enters the nearby Max's, and is greeted by friendly bartender Jerry (David Morse) - will he feel at home here?
In some ways Inside Moves resembles a movie version of the sitcom Cheers, not so much because of its plot, but because of its presentation of a bar where all these distinct personalities assemble to enjoy each other's company, have a laugh and maybe make a connection without making too big a deal of it. Based on a novel by Todd Walton and adapted by then husband and wife team of actress Valerie Curtin and soon-to-be director Barry Levinson, it made the lead character suicidal at the start (in the novel he had been a Vietnam War veteran), but failed to explain what exactly had driven him to that state.
So any depth in the protagonist is left up to Savage, and unfortunately he is acting very hard here, where less effort in his portrayal could have made Roary more believable. Luckily, the star is surrounded by a cast who seem far more natural, even if the script seems to be straining itself to be uplifting to the same extent as Savage's thespianism. For most of the film, he relies on his shaggy hair and beard as mise-en-scene to show that this man has been damaged by life, although he does get to limp as well, not exactly in a Long John Silver kind of way, but almost as overplayed.
Yet it's this fact that Inside Moves features a lead who is disabled, along with other characters in the bar, that made it catch on among circles of those similarly afflicted, probably because the handicap was not the be all and end all to their personalities. These were not living problem cases, but actual people who happened to have a physical drawback which did not necessarily define their being. Among the patrons there is paralysis, blindness and lack of body parts (Harold Russell, Oscar winner from The Best Years of Our Lives, returned to the big screen especially), and Jerry has a bad leg, too, although he can get his corrected with surgery if only he had the money.
Here's where the uplifting part enters into it, as Jerry has a real talent for basketball, and Roary encourages his new friend in this area, so when Jerry finally does get his leg seen to he enjoys a meteoric rise through the professional game. But now he is reluctant to return to the bar and see his old pals, the only real dark cloud on the drama, as it explores how those in Jerry's old life remind him of his past troubles and how he should come to terms with these relationships, not as a handicap like his leg was, but as a source of support. Inside Moves may seem like a strange choice for director Richard Donner after the blockbusters of The Omen and Superman, but in spite of its nods toward real life, this as much a fantasy as those previous works, not in a bad way but as a Hollywood feelgood movie with a touch of grit. Music by John Barry.