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Hudson Hawk is one of those films you either love it or hate it a totally tongue in cheek movie that pays homage to the slapstick cartoon genre, you've even got some batman style effects to prove it and the mafia family are the Mario brothers as in that loveable plumber we all play on Nintendo.
Co-written by its main star Bruce Willis in 1991, it reminds me of his character in the popular moonlighting show with the same zesty wise cracking - look to camera sarcasm he does so well.
Called a turkey by the critics this film went on to lose so much money for the studio Tri-Star that some say it is the reason the studio went bust and was swallowed up by Sony entertainment. Ouch.
So what exactly is wrong with it? It has a very impressive cast on paper, Bruce Willis hot from his success in Die Hard 1 and 2 is the singing, wise cracking and safe cracking cat burglar who has just been let out of prison after a stretch and all he wants is a cup of decent cappuccino at the place he owns with his old partner in crime Danny Messina, played by the always wonderful Danny Aiello, which is when it all starts to go wrong.
Not only are the Mario brothers, played by Frank Stallone and Carmine Zozzara, the local mafia, after him to do a job but his probation office is in on it too, if that's not bad enough you have the butler Alfred, a homage to Batman, for psychotic husband and wife team, Sandra Bernhard and Richard E. Grant on his case and the CIA in the shape of James Coburn and his team all pressuring him for his services.
He does of course have a love interest in the film in the shape of one Andie MacDowell, yes she who can not act more than two facial expressions, but there's a problem with that, she's not exactly what she seems to be.
Is it funny? Well, I think so, there are some real gems here, Willis and Aiello doing a job whilst singing swinging on a star, they us different songs for timing their heists, is a classic moment for me and you can pick out a few other slapstick events from the film at will.
The question is can you put aside some cringe worthy moments and suspend rational belief to enjoy something that isn't as bad as some critics would have you believe?
Do you like the awful batman tv show? Then you'll love this, because it's batman with comedy and the wonderful Bruce Willis.
There are some films that are a total guilty pleasure when it comes to watching and Hudson Hawk is one of them, the film itself was released back in 1991 and the first time I watched this was at the cinema. The fact is that its one of those films that you enjoy for the totally wrong reasons and I think that's why I have bought this on multiple media since then such as VHS and DVD. Classed as an adventure film, the story is action based as you would expect, but swerves off at any given point in a direction that is completely different in nature and expectations.
As John McLane, Bruce Willis was riding high as an actor after the success of the first two Die Hard movies, so with the idea of creating a pet project and a film that he had written to get the green light for production makes you think as to where the idea came from in the first place and for me why he actually put his reputation on the line and did this film is a mystery on its own. Hudson Hawk or to give him his real name of Eddie Hawkins is a newly released "back to the society prisoner" who upon walking through the gates into the wide world is bestowed upon to go back to doing the thing that put him in prison in the first place.... stealing! This is where the film opens up and Hawk is a Master Thief that simply wants to go straight then when he is free is given the task of stealing from a multitude of places, mainly against his will.
Bruce Willis delivers his lines as he normally would with the dry sense of humour that he always displays, except here he is the main character that doesn't actually know what he is doing and why. His chemistry with Danny Aiello who plays Tommy "Five Tone" Messina is very good on screen and the two have more than a comedic feel about them, in fact they are simply having a whale of a time as it looks like they are two men mucking about with the cameras on them. For Aiello to take a role like this is something of a departure from previous roles as he plays the hard man come gang boss and to see him not play the head of a criminal organisation feels strange.
Actress Andie MacDowell is the heroine of the film, she is the one person who befriends Hawk and becomes a close ally. I like her in the role, yet the lines and the movements she is given as part of the script leaves her looking rather embarrassed with regards to the level of her performance, although she does try with the rather sub-standard material she is given and does come through as a character in her own right. It has to be asked what she is actually doing in this film anyway!
Finally James Coburn plays George Kaplan. Whatever the actor appears in, he manages to steal the limelight. Whether this is because of his screen presence, his voice or his ability to have your eye diverted just for a second away from what is happening ion the screen to him as a background actor is simply amazing. He is good value for a film of this nature and brings some well needed class to the proceedings. Backing up the cast is Richard E Grant and Sandra Bernhart as the filthy rich husband and wife team that have no idea of the amount of money they spend giving the fact they are trillionaires. Grant displaying a method of acting that could justifiably be called venting or even regression giving the amount of pelvic thrusts and ear licking he does. Oh and keep a look out for CSI Miami star David Caruso in one of his early parts fittingly getting done over by a rather unsubtle elbow to the face by simply being annoying and mocking Hudson Hawk!
Mainly set in Europe the film has that international flavour to it, not necessarily anything along the lines of To Catch a Thief, more like a Carry On film in terms of the situations that happen as some scenes are just simply too wacky for the film. Probably the best example being the paralysis scene where a side effect has Andie McDowell acting like a Dolphin after her interrogation by James Coburn while Willis is doing something similar as he is completely out of his head because of the drug the interrogators have used. In fact throughout the film it's the wackiness that is used to drive a scene and this is utilised to give the film a rather comedic edge that borders on lunacy rather than comedy, in fact I think in some scenes with Richard E Grant completely overact ting the film crosses the line entirely and never really wants to come back!! That's not to say that the film is totally rubbish, take all the silliness with a pinch of salt and the film is entertaining, if rather unbelievable. I mean who is seriously going to rob the Vatican, okay as part of the story Hudson Hawk is going to do this and yet the way that the job is done is good if not convenient for the script writers.
It's safe to say that the film does get lost in its own adventure, for example when Willis and Aiello are on a job, they need to time there escapades exactly to the second. They do this by singing songs by Frank Sinatra, a good example being Swinging on a Star. Okay it's funny to watch this on screen and the choreography is spot on with but somehow it just doesn't fit into the film or the story at all. There's other things wrong with the film as well, the film has no identity as to what it actually wants to be and remembering back to when I saw it at the cinema, the audience laughed at what was happening on screen but left the cinema puzzled as to what they had just watched, and I think this is a major negative point for the film itself. Its only when the twist is deployed that the film lets itself down as up to here the film has an essence of mystery about it that as a viewer you aren't actually sure as to who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
The locations used in the film show off the beauty of Rome, and the Italian scenery only enhances the story, with the running gag throughout the film that Hawk wants nothing else than a properly made Cappuccino, but alas even when the opportunity arises something always happens to stop him enjoying the brew, especially when it is drugged, which for the first time the joke is aired is his gateway into the mystery of the story itself. The action sequences are more like something out of Some Mothers Do Ave them as one early sequence entails the use of an Ambulance trolley on the freeway which is entertaining enough but spoilt by the fact that the scene is intercut with the faces of the drivers in their cars saying irrelevant comments to Hawk as he passes them, the other most notable scene is the climax at the castle where Hawk has to do a rescue, again singing with Five Tone to a somewhat longer Sinatra type song called Side By Side and even managing dance steps too.
Extras wise...in what seems an attempt to balance out the awful badness the extras show the film from a number of aspects. Firstly the commentary by the director who seemingly wants to tell you everything about the production whether good or bad, also the Trivia Track also fills in the missing gaps as well. Deleted Scenes that speak for themselves as to why they are collected under this heading anyway. The documentaries do tend to be rather self complimentary towards Willis and he tends to use this as an excuse to showboat himself and the film which is effectively his project. There is also a music video that is a rather good find as this is the theme tune to the film itself.
This enters the history books in the same way that the Warren Beatty film Ishtar did and with the same level of success that William Shatner directed the fifth Star Trek film. Overall this is a film that was heavily panned by the critics, didn't make that much money and is quite awful to watch a myriad of well known and talented actors acting like buffoons in what can only be described a cartoon movie that makes use of speeded up film, sound effects and cheesy one-liners. Slapstick is the key to this film and even the sound effects that you would see in Tom and Jerry have been included. This was co-written by Willis, and due to the high cost of the production was the last film that was produced by Tri-Star Studios before Columbia took them over, having a flop like this was something that caused the demise of Tri-Star. Beware as this is not the action adventure film that it was originally marketed as, but more an out of place comedy that in parts is quite surreal given what is happening to the characters and the situations they are in. It is bad, no denying that but it's so bad that I enjoyed it. This is a film that can easily be considered a cult classic for what it isn't and is something that will never get a regular airing on ITV2. In fact it's more likely to get a showing for film students, as in how not to make a film! Trouble is I liked it, it did make me laugh but not enough to rate it as a four star film.
I personally don't think this is as bad as what I've heard some people say, or write.
I mean, it's not the greatest film ever made, and it's certainly not comparable to your typical "Bruce Willis" successes, but what it is, is a light hearted comedy that is typical of the humour "Bruce Willis" used to bring to us so often in the 80's and 90's before becoming our number 1 source for serious emotional films.
Following on from the above, please, please, please believe me when I say that this film is not going to suit everyone, but I do believe if you like, funny one liners and slap stick comedy then this will probably appeal to you.
The film revolves around Mr Willis as Hudson Hawk, a world famous cat burglar who has just been released from prison after a long stint, and all he wants is a decent cup of coffee and the chance to be with a woman. But before he can get any of this he ends up being forced into taking up his old skills to pull off a typical difficult robbery.
During these robberies (my fav parts of the film) Hudson Hawk times his entry and escape by singing a song that runs for the amount of time he needs for each phase of the robbery. These are catchy tunes that go well with the humour of the film.
As time goes on we learn that the robberies that Hudson Hawk has been forced to do, have much more meaning to them and are actually for 2 other people that are hoping for world domination, one of the 2 being "Richard. E. Grant".
The scenery changes quite a bit in the film and we spend alot of time near the Vatican, having another plot developing to do with religious forces being involved in trying to stop the criminals.
Now you may think the above sounds confusing, but that is because it actually is, but in a funny way.
The film cannot be taken seriously for one second and needs to be enjoyed that way. The story line is weak but the humour from all characters is surprisingly good.
I like this film, but can understand why it is not rated highly by others. If you have an open mind and enjoy a bit of switch your brain off light hearted humour, then this may be something you could enjoy.
(FILM ONLY REVIEW)
Is this the worst film ever made? Certainly some critics would say yes and the fact that 'Hudson Hawk' was nominated for four and won three Razzle awards (the spoof version of the Oscars meant to highlight cinema lows rather than high) including 'worst picture' and 'worst director' would seem to back up the premise.
I personally wouldn't say it was quite that bad and I still maintain that the worst big budget Hollywood movie I've ever seen was the misconceived and miscast 'The Avengers' in 1998. Although 'Hudson Hawk' maybe not be plunging those depths it still is one prize-winning turkey. So where did it all go wrong? After all the film had bankable stars, huge budget, state of the art special effects and all the right marketing...?
Where do I start? At the beginning I suppose... Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Long before Dan Brown was even a glint in his publisher's eye Leonardo Da Vinci was making his presence felt in popular culture. The undoubted genius and mystery surrounding his life and many of his inventions made Da Vinci a compelling figure for any author filmmaker etc. that wished to bring some hint of age-old mystery or conspiracy to their work. In the opening shots of 'Hudson Hawk' a sort of prologue to the main film we see Leonardo multitasking; hard at work painting the Mona Lisa, casting a famous equine sculpture and more importantly to the plot manufacturing the alchemist's holy grail (pardon the Dan Brown pun) a metal transforming forge to be used to turn base metal into gold!
We are then propelled hundreds of year into the future to the present day when our unfortunate hero Eddie 'Hudson Hawk' Hawkins a former cat burglar has just been released from prison and he's determined to put his criminal days behind him...where have we heard that before!? Obviously his plans are doomed to fail. He is approached by the comically sinister Mario Brothers (don't ask) who ask him to do one last job, they in turn are in the service of the even more sinister Darwin and Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard). The Mario's and their masters force Willis by threatening the life of his best friend Tommy into using his cat burglaring skills to steal three precious Da Vinci artefacts. To what end I hear you ask? World domination of course! Soon the CIA and the Vatican are in the mix too and poor Eddie Hawk finds himself stuck in the middle.
Ok so the plot is ludicrous, the characters clichéd and cartoony but that in itself is not necessarily a drawback for an action comedy caper indeed the idea I think was to replicate the feel of earlier films such as Indiana Jones or the earlier Superman, so to explain the real failings of this film we have to delve a little deeper.
On the face of it this is a star-studded cast bursting with screen presence and talent.
Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard should make suitably quirky villains and to be fair Sandra Bernhard probably comes away from the project with the least damage to her acting reputation. Also included are Danny Aiello who can usually be relied upon for a good performance and the veteran James Coburn one of the Hollywood greats. Such an ensemble should be enough to even carry the rather less talented David Caruso. Andie MacDowell as the leading love interest once again as in all her other films (Groundhog Day, Green Card, Four Funerals...) seems to end up playing herself a glamorous, attractive, airhead. Is this because her style of acting is so natural or could it be because she can't act...mmmh I wonder?
However despite the heavyweight support cast 'Hudson Hawk' is essentially a star vehicle for cheeky-chappie action man Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis. It is no surprise to find that the idea for 'Hudson Hawk' originated with Willis who I believe co-wrote the script and bankrolled the project seeing it as a good vehicle for himself. I feel that Willis' close involvement in the pre-production of the project might be a big factor in the film's lack of success. Willis in 'Die Hard' and the subsequent sequels is key to the success of those films he uses the humour and charm of his character to complement the action packed story giving some light relief to contrast the quite violent and brutal plot, in the same way as the humour in the early Sean Connery Bond movies seemed to be effortless and a natural part of the character. In 'Hudson Hawk' however Willis is one of the major handicaps. The problem seems to be that Willis is supposed to be funny, it is played for laughs but the humour especially from Willis is too self-conscious. He seems to be saying "Look at me I'm funny!" and " Now I'm going to do something funny are you ready?!". It all comes across as too obvious, too predictable and quickly it becomes annoying. When the charming, charismatic loveable rogue lead character in any film turns into an annoying distraction only half an hour in then you know the movie's in trouble! It didn't take too long for me to have my fill of Willis' smirking asides to camera.
Bruce Willis ... Eddie 'Hudson Hawk' Hawkins
Danny Aiello ... Tommy Five-Tone
Andie MacDowell ... Anna Baragli
James Coburn ... George Kaplan
Richard E. Grant ... Darwin Mayflower
Sandra Bernhard ... Minerva Mayflower
Don Harvey ... Snickers
David Caruso ... Kit Kat
Director Michael Lehmann who made the enjoyable 'Heathers' a couple of years earlier but who since has mainly slipped into a successful TV career obviously is keen to show his love of special effects. We get more than our fill of explosions, intricate gadgets and notable violence throughout the film. The location budget was also impressive with New York, London, Rome and Budapest all featuring. However despite the money that has obviously been spent on these aspects of the film it still fails to hit the mark. It seems that with each set piece scene the integrity of the admittedly flimsy plot has been subsumed to the necessities of the special effects or the exposition of the locations. This is direction by numbers following a set formula, you have to have a joke every 5 minutes and an action sequence every 10 minutes.
As some Premiership teams find out getting together the most expensive squad and the biggest ground doesn't guarantee winning the league for that you also have to have someone in charge that knows what they are doing and that control the super inflated egos involved. One feels that Lehmann just couldn't hack it.
In the end despite any deficiencies on the part of the supporting cast they are all let down by the poor quality script and the plodding direction.
The film is trying to hard to be wacky, clever and amusing. There is nothing wrong with this in movie action capers with quick fire gags, lots of stunts and a nod to the audience to show that the actors all know that they are being wacky is fine, Spielberg has been doing this effortlessly for years with the Indian Jones franchise. In 'Hudson Hawk' you feel that the great effort that has been taken into being slightly wacky, slightly post modern has been misconceived and the audience automatically can pick up when a filmmaker is telling it what to think or how to feel (at least if they can pick this up then the filmmaker has failed) and naturally resist this and become annoyed by it. The audience feeling that says "I'll be the judge of what's funny or not, thank you very much" is soon evident and then every attempt of the filmmaker to connect with the audience or to share a joke falls flat.
The failings also lie in the story, there is a thin line between mindless fun and boringly infantile and I think this films gets it wrong.
The final irony for a film that features a machine that turns base metal in to gold is that the filmmakers have managed the reverse turning multimillion dollar assets into amateurish tomfoolery.
Hudson Hawk can be bought on DVD from Amazon for £5.98 (+p&p) at the time of writing this review BUT it is best avoided.
The film is UK 15 rating and the run time is 95 minutes.
© Mauri 2007
Bruce Willis's awful, 1991 vanity piece is an abuse of audience goodwill and a waste of a good cast and director (Michael Lehmann of Heathers). The story of Hudson Hawk, cowritten by Willis, concerns a cat burglar pressured into stealing precious art, including some from the Vatican. But the script is just a convenience upon which Willis piles his vaguely boorish brand of hip irony, assuming his audience will stay with him every step of the way. Certain, self-congratulatory scenes induce cringing--Willis and Danny Aiello, for instance, sing "Side by Side" (to brassy accompaniment on the soundtrack) every time they're working a job--but the overall effect is more irritating and baffling. Keep a good thought for Willis (an underrated actor better than the summer junk we usually see him in) by checking out his superior work in Pulp Fiction and his small but memorable role in Billy Bathgate. --Tom Keogh