Friday, 22 October 2010

Obscurity Files #26 - Hudson Hawk

With RED hitting our screens this weekend, I though I'd take a look back at one of Bruce Willis' less fondly remembered films. Today, it's Hudson Hawk.

More after the jump...

This film evokes memories of being on holiday in France a few years ago. During one particularly rainy evening, finding the local TV channels incomprehensible (all in French for some reason) we raided the quaint little chalet's video collection, settling on the only VHS that was in the English language, Hudson Hawk.


Not exactly in the best of moods, I sat down to watch Bruce Willis star in a film that he had also co-written. Hardly expecting Citizen Kane, I still couldn't understand how Willis had created something so terrible. I couldn't stand the characters, the dialogue or the story, and don't get me started on the singing interludes. Looking at it now, my feelings have softened a little towards the film, and whilst it's certainly not as awful as I remember it's definitely not a highlight of Willis' career.


Danny Aiello arrives on screen with an attitude that seems to say, "look at me, I'm Danny Aiello". His character is called Tommy Five-Tone, and boy, does he love a good croon along with Bruce. These cat burglars have come up with a very novel way of timing their crimes; singing a tune that matches their planned robbery and escape time to a precise measurement. Why all that singing doesn't bring them to the attention of the guards I don't know.
A bunch of familiar faces appear, not all of them welcome. Richard E. Grant shows up as grandiose millionaire Darwin Mayflower, chewing the scenery like he's not been fed for a week. His partner in crime is Sandra Bernhard, and the less said about her the better. Main villain duties fall to James Coburn and his team of ex-CIA goofballs. There's Butterfinger the idiot man-child and Kit Kat the mute impressionist (an early role for David Caruso)...not really a threat for smug old Bruce. Andie MacDowell's also around somewhere, continuing to carve out her niche as Hollywood's blandest love interest.


Apparently everyone's in demand of Hawk's robbery services, but when he's put in a box and shipped to Rome by Coburn's corrupt general, he has little option but to go along with the plan to steal Da Vinci's notebook. There's stuff about a star shaped crystal too, but it doesn't really matter. Honestly, this film is like the Da Vinci Code for dummies. Andie MacDowell's in charge of looking after the notebook for some reason, so once he's stolen it Willis' cat burglar is going to have to keep its whereabouts a mystery if he wants to keep her around.


There's just so many parts of this film that make you cringe with embarrassment, starting with some godawful one-liners. After chopping a man's head off, Hudson Hawk is quick to quip "You won't be attending that hat convention in July". What does that even mean? It's also cartoonish in its violence. Characters bemoan a lack of subtlety, then get stabbed in the face by a dozen hypodermic needles. As well as half the characters being named after chocolate bars, we also have to deal with the idiocy of two of the bad guys being named 'the Mario Brothers' with little irony. There's only so far you can push me Willis.


If there's one thing that this film has going for it, it's that it's locations are lovely. Partially shot in Italy, New York and the Vatican City, at least Bruce's buffoonery has a nice backdrop. This was a notorious flop for Bruce back in 1991, grossing $17 million domestically from a $65 million dollar budget. It was from that part of his career when he tried to do films other than action (Bonfire Of The Vanities, Billy Bathgate etc), the best of the bunch being Death Becomes Her.


Somehow this film was made by Michael Lehman, the director of Heathers. There's none of that film's wit or satire present here, instead opting for goofy romance and smug performances. To say you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this film is an understatement. I think back to my first experience with Hudson Hawk back in France, and maybe I wasn't so wrong in the first place. Some people may enjoy this completely, but they're probably the kind of people who own Bruce Willis' album 'The Return Of Bruno', and not in an ironic way. I don't want to associate myself with them.

Save from obscurity? NO

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