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Monday, 4 February 2019

Retro Review: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Hudson Hawk
Cast: Bruce Willis, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Danny Aiello, David Caruso, Lorraine Toussaint, Frank Stallone, Sandra Bernhard, Richard E. Grant 
Genre: Action Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $17 million

Plot: A cat burglar is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot

'So-Called Crime Caper Flaps Its Wings, But Can't Get Off The Ground'

I really didn't want to go by the negative reviews and feedback on this film, but boy as I watched Hudson Hawk all unfold, this one was a mess: tonally, it is so utterly jarring it confused me to the point in which I asked myself what type of genre does this really fit in. Like Howard The Duck, another critically panned film that was released to scathing reviews, what also damns Hudson Hawk is the lack of charm that it has and that little thought was put in to conceive it properly. These films are defined by their wacky, surreal premise, but when it comes to the execution of the ideas themselves, it is just not well thought out. There are so-bad-it's good movies they are also in a way funny with intriguing characters to boot.

This film has, on the other hand, none to speak of, whatsoever. 

1988's Heathers with Christian Slater and Wynonna Ryder became a hit, due to director Michael Lehmann and 3 years after it came out, action movie producer, Joel Silver and Sony Tristar handed the reigns over to Lehmann who also banked on Bruce Willis, right off the back of the second Die Hard flick, to deliver the goods, once again. Willis played the self-titled character, who is fresh out of prison - only to find himself blackmailed into doing one more deed. Hudson Hawk is a legendary cat burglar and whilst he is supposedly a playful, easy-going anti-hero type, Hawk comes across at times as smug with no air of presence. After he and his friend played by Danny Aiello (Do The Right Thing) steal a Da Vinci sculpture, they learn that there is an ancient key. This key is the final component of a machine built by Da Vinci that can transform lead into gold. Along the way, Hudson bumps into some gangsters and a love interest in Andie MacDowell's character.

I thought the first 25 mins was okay actually, but as it went on, the story, penned by Steven E. De Souza of Commando (great) and Streetfighter (far from great), became less entertaining and practically a bore and there was not one single standout performance from either actor or actress. As well as Bruce Willis, Sandra Bernhard, Richard E. Grant and Andie MacDowell, who achieved greater box office success with Groundhog Day, had their talents wasted, burdened with underwritten characterisations and almost one-note performances. E. Grant and Bernhard try to outwit each other to see who will chew up the scenery the most. Although one might argue that Richard E. Grant is probably the only main cast member, whose campy turn here feels more right at home and works, much to the quirky idea of the film. Both Andie MacDowell and Sandra Bernhard are completely out of sorts, although this isn't helped by the material that they were given. 

With the tone, it veers from not so serious to comical to farcical, but to the extent that it is so disconnected the humour comes across as forced with Looney Tunes cartoon-style slapstick, which feels out of place. Co-written by Bruce Willis also, it was like watching a cartoon, but in live-action form and it was sloppy. In fact, it was almost as if it took a leaf out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and substituted the fun, the charm and creativity and replaced it with turgid, self-aware humour that tries to be clever when it's just awkward. 

The action is bland and yet the main issue is that it tries too hard to please to make up for the total lack of efficiency and enchantment, which fails to materialise. 

There are films, like I said, as much maligned by critics that they try and make an effort and whilst this is not outright unwatchable, in my eyes, I personally didn't enjoy it very much either and for a comedy, I mostly sat there with a straight face. At some point onwards, I was so bored I lost interest in the story, no matter how sillier it became in places.

Final Verdict:

As films from 1991 go, it's not completely terrible & tedious and mundane like Joel Schumacher's turd Dying Young, but also it just didn't have more things in it that I enjoyed and what I'd come to expect, irrespective of the critical trouncing, like with Steven Spielberg's Hook; with both movies that came out in the same year as Hudson Hawk.

There just isn't much else that is worthwhile with Hudson Hawk, as I was bored 99% of the time as I sat and watched this and the film's elements such as the tone, humour, story, action are shoddily executed with performances that didn't do justice.  

In all, this was a mess and most of it either made little to no sense, as offbeat as it tries to be, this is supposed to be a satire right, yet unfortunately, it's not that the satire here went over my head, it was poorly conceived. That, and it made me not care much for it. 


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