Insomniac Movie Theater: Hudson Hawk

by Trevan McGee on May 27, 2010

in Columns,Insomniac Movie Theater

64 million people a year suffer from insomnia and every so often I am one of them. But rather than use the extra time I’ve been given during a given insomniac episode to be productive, balance my checkbook, study for the LSAT or exercise, I instead fool myself into thinking the time isn’t my own and can therefore guiltlessly waste it.

Netflix instant queue is the perfect response to this mentality as it gives me access to countless B and C movies all of which I willingly watch while everyone else is fast asleep. Enter Insomnia Movie Theater, where I subject myself to some of the worst, campiest and outright terrible movies the world has to offer … and the occasional cult classic.

This week’s entry has more in common with “Battlefield Earth” than any movie should. Namely that its about a gold heist, it was critically and commercially reviled, and it nearly killed the career of its star.

“Hudson Hawk” is a campy little action comedy dreamt up by star Bruce Willis and producer Robert Kraft. And even by 3 a.m.-on-a-Tuesday standards, hasn’t aged too well, but is a testament to the overall decline in studio movie quality in the last 20 years.

Willis plays the titular Hudson Hawk, a master cat burglar tasked by the CIA and a pair of wealthy crazy people with stealing several of Leonardo Da Vinci’s artworks because they contain plans for an alchemy machine. It sounds pretty absurd in print, right? But in the wake of hugely successful franchises like the “National Treasure” series or “The Da Vinci Code,” it’s plot is way more plausible now than it was during its release in 1991. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still horrible, but way more digestible.

Willis is accompanied by Danny Aiello as his buddy Tommy Five-Tone, Andie MacDowell as his love interest, and Sandra Bernhard and Richard E. Grant as Minerva and Darwin Mayflower, his primary antagonists. “Hudson Hawk” as a movie is surrounded by charmless gimmicks and jokes that fall flat. Take Aiello’s name for example. It’s funny because he sings, get it?

Last week, we had a “Battlefield Earth” drinking game and while I don’t want to get in the habit of killing people with alcohol (again), it would be possible to get hammered during “Hudson Hawk” by drinking every time a joke or comedic set up crashes and burns.

When Hawk and Tommy need to execute a timing-specific element of a heist, they don’t synchronize their watches like average poindexters, they pick an old lounge tune no one’s ever heard of that happens to be exactly as long as their time constraint and sing the lyrics. Hilarious.

Or when Hawk meets the CIA, led by James Coburn, get this, all of the agents are named after candy bars! There’s Kit Kat and Almond Joy, Butterfinger (he’s the clumsy one) and Snickers. Hahahaha. Oh, and all Hawk wants is a cappuccino, but hi-jinx keep getting in the way.

CarusoHawk also spouts more witty banter than a bad Spider-Man comic. In fact, his banter may be the one time in the English language that it’s okay to use the word “quip” to describe it. When Alfred the knife-happy butler gets his head cut off by his own blades, Hawk quips, “Won’t be attending that hat convention in June.” David Caruso is in the movie for all of five minutes and I still wanted him to pop into frame and throw his sunglasses on while Roger Daltrey screamed, “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.”

There’s no need to bash the rest of the cast, but they’re all less than stellar. MacDowell is a clammy leading lady, the antithesis of sexualized or interesting, for that matter. Bernhard does a remarkable job of being obnoxious. Richard E. Grant is appropriately creepy. Aiello is simply Aiello, that is: stereotypically Italian.

The year of its release “Hudson Hawk” won Razzies for worst director, worst screenplay and worst picture. Peter Travers said of the movie, “A movie this unspeakably awful can make an audience a little crazy. You want to throw things, yell at the actors, beg them to stop.”

And yet, it’s all fascinatingly watchable. The sets and action constructions aren’t big enough for a theater, but look about right for TBS over a three-day weekend, a exclusivity contract I’m pretty sure the network has shorn up until 2515. “Hudson Hawk” takes place in a weird world where physics don’t really seem to apply. A hospital gurney can race down a freeway at 80 mph without any forward motion. Hawk and Tommy fall off a balcony and land on their sides 30 feet below, only to get up and make a run for it.

In the years since “Hudson Hawk” was released, the cultural, and in some cases, critical success of outright trash like “Snakes On A Plane,” history-for-dummies tripe like the previously mentioned “National Treasure” series, and everything Michael Bay, Rolland Emmerich, Renny Harlin and Gore Verbinski have done is staggering. “Hudson Hawk” hasn’t gotten any better with time, nearly everything else has gotten worse.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed May 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

I haven’t seen this since the theaters. Perhaps I was young enough or something, but I remember distinctly not hating it.

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2 Reed May 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

I haven’t seen this since the theaters. Perhaps I was young enough or something, but I remember distinctly not hating it.

Reply

3 Alan Rapp May 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

Hudson Hawk holds a special place in movie history as a film that actually gets worse every time you watch it. And in a funny this movie is so bad its good way. It just sucks. Period. No matter how much you hated it, watching it again will only make you hate it more. I love heist films, but I can’t, in any way, excuse this one – 3am or not.

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4 Alan Rapp May 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

Hudson Hawk holds a special place in movie history as a film that actually gets worse every time you watch it. And in a funny this movie is so bad its good way. It just sucks. Period. No matter how much you hated it, watching it again will only make you hate it more. I love heist films, but I can’t, in any way, excuse this one – 3am or not.

Reply

5 Reed May 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

So, Alan, you’re saying I should quit while I’m not ahead?

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6 Reed May 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

So, Alan, you’re saying I should quit while I’m not ahead?

Reply

7 joeb November 18, 2010 at 12:46 am

you guys have got to be kidding me – it’s great . Admittedly not revolutionary or deserving of awards but in an industry that is filled with carbon copy formulaic dross it was, and still is, one of a kind.
A heady mix of classic one liners, surreal humour and off beat insanity that doesn’t fit the usual categories for American Films . A modern day fairy tale that has depth if you’re prepared to actually pay attention – you can’t just skim the surface as you do with more obvious action or effect driven fluff.
You’re missing out .

And I watch it every few years or so – I would’ve watched it 8 or so times by now .

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