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More Turkey Than Hawk
Hudson Hawk (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Hudson Hawk (DVD)
Date: 15/05/07, updated on 25/06/09 (181 review reads)
Advantages: It could've been longer.
Disadvantages: Bruce Willis and everything else
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
Summary: Probably one of the worst big budget films ever made.