Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Hudson Hawk (1991)

by  |  December 20th, 2010  |  Action/Adventure

I consider myself to be discerning. I live in New York City where, even just by osmosis, I am continually exposed to culinary delights, world-famous museums and enough culture to stuff a horse. And, I love good movies, good acting and a well-developed plot.

So why, in the name of all things holy, am I so attached to Hudson Hawk?

Why do I keep going back to a movie so obviously phoned in? Why must I continually subject myself to a role Bruce Willis himself would deny at gunpoint having had any part in whatsoever?

I don’t have answers. But I can tell you that this is a brilliant piece of B-movie history, worth almost as much as the film it’s printed on. A visual tome that spans the ages, from Da Vinci’s imagining of the modern helicopter to a labyrinth of secret tunnels in the present day Vatican. It’s the brilliance of Richard E. Grant as a mad, English oligarch, hell bent on the destruction of our economy. It even has a cameo by Frank Stallone. Didn’t know Sylvester had a brother? Who cares – neither did anyone else.

So, Hudson Hawk, an ex-con named after the cold wind that blows along the Hudson River, is released from jail. He’s a cat burglar who manages the precision timing of each caper by singing the kind of crap my mom used to listen to on the oldies station. We’ve Only Just Begun, Karen Carpenter: 3 minutes, 38 seconds. You get the idea.

Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) and Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins (Bruce Willis) plan their heist.

On the day of his release, he’s propositioned by the Mayflowers, an evil power couple played by Richard E Grant (who steals the whole movie, IMHO) and Sandra Bernhard. It seems that they have discovered a method of alchemy, developed by Leonardo da Vinci himself, that turns coal into gold. Or something like that. It hardly matters.

Like all good super villains, the Mayflowers divulge their plan for world domination to the hero.

Somehow Andie MacDowell’s character gets wind of the plot to steal Da Vinci’s notebook from the Vatican and hijinks ensue. The rest is movie history.

Allow me to quote Wikipedia: “The film received very negative critical reviews and was overall a box office bomb.” Yeah, that about covers it. But what it doesn’t do is give a certain amount of credit to a movie that manages to connect a top-secret, CIA, special ops team whose members are named after candy bars, to the daring robbery and subsequent destruction of a gymnasium sized, renaissance-era machine capable of creating the world’s third most precious metal from previously worthless flotsam.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the script was written in no small part by Bruce Willis himself. And that, having released it just a year after Die Hard 2, expectations were set but not actually met. Years later, Richard E Grant would shine a bit of light on this cellulose absurdity by confirming that Bruce also had no small part in rewriting the script – nay, the very plot! – in the middle of shooting the movie.

Despite this fact, I beseech you to see this delightful farce. It’s marvelously entertaining despite itself, and brings together a cadre of thespian talent who clearly decided to make the best of a less-than-perfect working environment. Revel in the poison darts; laugh as Darwin Mayflower receives a fax in his limo and then instantly feeds it to the paper shredder; sing along with Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello as they croon Swingin’ On A Star while stealing a statue of a horse. You won’t be sorry.

Kevin Jacoby


Kevin Jacoby is co-founder of Sessionville; a bass player and singer/songwriter sorta like Sting only taller; and all too fond of sushi and Doritos.

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