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RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
• Director’s commentary by Michael Lehmann
• “The Story of Hudson Hawk” featurette with Bruce Willis
• “My Journey to Minerva” featurette with Sandra Bernhard
• Hudson Hawk trivia track
• Deleted scenes
“Hi, can I speak to Mr. Silver? Hey Joel, it’s Bruce. Remember how you cast me in Die Hard and made me a huge movie star? Well I want to give you something to show you my appreciation. It’s a screenplay called Hudson Hawk, and it’s a sure-fire hit! No no, you can thank me later.”
Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Sandra Bernhard, David Caruso, and… you guessed it: Frank Stallone
Master thief Hudson Hawk (Willis) has just been released from a ten-year prison sentence when he and his partner Eddie (Aiello) become wrapped up in a plot to steal three priceless Da Vinci artifacts. Also after the artifacts: A team of CIA operatives named after candy bars (led by James Coburn, with David Caruso as “Kit Kat”); the Mario Brothers crime family (yes, the Mario Brothers), a sadistic and wealthy industrialist husband-and-wife team (and their dog); a knife-wielding British butler with a penchant for bad puns, and a beautiful nun charged with protecting Da Vinci’s secrets. Got all that?
“Wow Bruce, this sunglasses shtick is genius! Do you mind if I use it? For the rest of my career?”
You’ve got to hand it to Bruce Willis… he might be a lot of things, but pretentious isn’t one of them. After Die Hard catapulted him from television star to box office behemoth almost overnight, he took advantage of his newfound clout to produce a pet project he’d been working on for over a decade. What was this dream project? Some hard-hitting drama that would tackle serious social and political issues? An adaptation of Willis’s favorite piece of literature, perhaps? No, the film was Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis’s cinematic ode to Pisans, pratfalls, and porkpie hats. It seems that making Hudson Hawk was a lifelong ambition for Willis: the story goes that years earlier, when Bruce was a struggling actor in New York, he would answer his home phone “Hudson Hawk Productions!” It says a lot about Willis that, of all things, this was the movie he’d been waiting his entire professional life to make. More power to ya, Bruno.
Willis plays our title character, a master thief who would happily go straight if only his services weren’t in such high demand. After he and his partner Eddie steal a priceless Da Vinci sculpture, they learn that it contains one-third of a mysterious, ancient key. Turns out, this key is the final component of a machine built by Leonardo da Vinci that can transform ordinary lead into solid gold. Soon Eddie and Hawk are off on an adventure too silly to be exciting and too ponderous to be funny; a smug, overly self-aware caper flick full of one-liners so leaden I half-expected to see someone throw the script itself into Da Vinci’s machine. There’s no doubt about it: Hudson Hawk is a bad movie.
Ask your doctor if Botox is right for you.
And yet, despite all its flaws – the nonsensical plot, the ham-fisted performances, the desperate, flailing attempts at snappy banter – the movie just tries so damn hard to please that ultimately I can’t help but root for the poor thing. Like the fat kid in the triathlon, you know he won’t succeed but that only makes you pull for the little bastard even more. And like that fat kid, it’s a film that simply isn’t equipped to achieve the goal it sets out to accomplish. It’s precisely this quality that I find so endearing about Hudson Hawk: its gleeful, almost Pollyannaish journey headlong into futility. It’s a movie that simply cannot work under any circumstances, thoroughly lost in a sea of ill-conceived ideas and dead-weight comedy, yet the movie always presses onward valiantly.
Take, for example, the scene where Hawk and Eddie synchronize a museum robbery not with stopwatches but with a song, performing a two-man musical number in the middle of a heist. It’s such a bizarre concept that I, for one, can’t imagine a scenario where this scene plays. A wiser director would’ve scrapped the idea in pre-production, knowing full well that it would never work. But Hudson Hawk is a film that truly believes it can pull off the preposterous, and although the scene predictably falls flat on its face, you have to admire the effort. There’s something so optimistic about a film that willingly attempts the unachievable. After all, watching a movie try and fail is much more interesting than watching a movie not try at all.
I’ve heard of explosive diarrhea, but this is ridiculous.
That’s not to imply that I enjoyed Hudson Hawk on an ironic level; laughing at this movie would seem far too cruel. On the other hand, it’s equally impossible to enjoy on its own terms. Yet there’s still a part of me that enjoys Hudson Hawk. Why? Is it pity? Honestly, I think I just like the idea that this movie exists. I like the idea that this sort of batshit-crazy flick can get made in Hollywood. Hell, they’re still getting made: Southland Tales, for example. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I’m glad I live in a world where insane, nonsensical vanity projects can be forced through the Hollywood system without anyone stopping long enough to point out that they make no fucking sense whatsoever. If ever there was proof that the auteur theory is true, for better and for worse, this is it.
If it seems like I’m contorting myself into knots to give Hudson Hawk a positive review, you can consider me guilty as charged. I know that Hudson Hawk sucks. This fact is indisputable. Yet somehow I like the movie anyway. I’ve tried my best to explain my reasons, if only for my own edification. But the truth of the matter is, even I’m baffled by my own fondness for Hudson Hawk. The movie is the very definition of a guilty pleasure, fascinating to watch in the same way that the ramblings of a schizophrenic are fascinating: None of it makes sense, but you know that it makes sense to him. The fun comes from trying to rearrange those incoherent fragments into something vaguely resembling the original intent of its creator. Maybe it’s unfair to compare the creative output of Bruce Willis to the delirious ravings of a madman, but if the porkpie fits…
Armed goon or no armed goon, one cannot resist the come-hither gaze of Frank Stallone.
If you love indignation and defensiveness in your bonus materials, then Hudson Hawk is the DVD for you!
First off is the director’s commentary by Michael Lehmann, who spends the entire track making excuses for the film, along with its poor performance at the box office and its unanimously negative critical reception. Apparently it was the audience’s expectations that torpedoed Hudson Hawk at the box office, not the quality of the film. They were expecting another Die Hard, and instead they got this. If only the audience would expect the movie to be awful like they’re supposed to, then they wouldn’t be so disappointed all the time…
There are two short featurettes about the making of Hudson Hawk: the first is a sit-down with Bruce Willis and executive producer Robert Kraft, Bruce’s old friend from his early days. The piece has almost nothing to do with the movie at all – the two of them sit around a piano and sing, reminisce about old times, and occasionally mention something about the movie before going back to reminiscing. The two of them look so reluctant to talk about the movie, you almost feel like they insisted that a piano be in the room during the interview so they’d have something to distract them. The second featurette is a bizarre interview/performance by Sandra Bernhard about her experience playing the billionaire villainess Minerva that’s mostly a self-promotional monologue that has very little to do with anything, let alone the film.
Finally there’s the Hudson Hawk trivia track, which serves up useless pieces of information that can all be found with a simple Google search. Did you know that Danny Aiello’s first acting role was in Bang the Drum Slowly? Well now you know, thanks to the Hudson Hawk trivia track! Thank God it exists to tell you these things.
“Stop the movie, I wanna get off!”
5.8 out of 10