Moses Wine is a Los Angeles private eye who's having a hard time keeping his life from resembling a bad joke. He has abandoned the political idealism of his former days as a Berkeley radical and he's already blown his marriage out the window. The pop guru who is dating his wife tells him that sleuthing "must be very supportive in helping attain the child in you." The fellow isn't too far from the truth.

Winn's former girlfriend reappears and draws him into a complicated investigation involving a smear campaign against a liberal gubernatorial candidate. When she is murdered, Moses — with his two young sons in tow — tries to solve the crime. Several leads draw him into encounters with a revolutionary Chicano group, a wealthy entrepreneur whose son is missing, and a Beverly Hills ad man who is really a nationally known leader of the underground.

The Big Fix, based on a novel by Roger L. Simon, is an intriguing thriller that successfully mixes sophisticated humor with a more serious intent — that of giving us a portrait of how 60's radicals cope with the sedate 70's. Richard Dreyfuss is just right as the off balance detective who longs for a time when the battle lines were more clearly drawn between the idealists and the reactionaries. Susan Anspach puts in an all too brief appearance as Winn's former girlfriend. Several minor characters register strongly as well — John Lithgow as a slippery campaign manger; Rita Karin as Winn's crazy, loveable Aunt Sonya; F. Murray Abraham as the underground radical who is carrying on as a typical suburbanite; and Ofelia Medina as an alluring Chicano politico.

As in Heroes, director Jeremy Paul Kagan is almost undone by the meandering storyline. However, the exceptional cast manages to maintain our interest despite the plot's loose ends. The Big Fix, then, turns out to be a lively mystery in the Dashielle Hammet style. The movie gives us a taste of what a young Hollywood team can do with an established genre.