Action Heroes – Willis: Hudson Hawk


For our first brucie bonus, we take a peek at Hudson Hawk.

Quite why this one went over critics’ heads back in the day is beyond me. Directed by Michael “Heathers” Lehmann, this quirky comedic action adventure (co-written by Willis) finds our star playing fresh-out-of-jail cat-burglar Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins. So fresh out the joint, he’s unaware of what a Nintendo is and eager for a cappuccino (which he doesn’t get until the very end). But he’s then pulled out of retirement (well, blackmailed) into doing a job involving removing a Da Vinci horse miniature from the local museum.

So he tags along with long suffering best pal Tommy (Danny Aiello) and the pair demonstrate the best way to rob somewhere is by timing it by song. Then begins the first of a few examples of them singing a particular tune as they go about their robbery. And this is the easy to follow part of the story. From here onwards it gets increasingly chaotic as new characters are introduced and Hawk ends up doing a bit of globetrotting to Italy to continue his adventure.

Heading up the plentiful rota of baddies is Richard E Grant as Darwin Mayflower (who introduces himself literally as “The Villain”) and his awful wife, Minerva, played with flamboyance by Sandra Bernhard. I don’t know who thought to pair these two as a couple of disgustingly rich and pompous people, but whoever it was deserves a medal. Grant swaggers around, slapping his cohorts and enjoying perfect OTT chemistry with his onscreen wife. Bernhard has quite active facial features and watching Willis react to her is a real hoot. You never know how terrified you’re meant to be of her, but she does the job well. And let’s not forget that snapping little dog of theirs, Bunny Mayflower (who gets one of the  film’s best laughs at the end when put out of his hairy little misery).

Following their every word and whim is their butler, Alfred. Who looks every bit the clichéd English butler, but is probably more threatening with his twin wrist blades than most. The Mayflowers also have at their disposal a set of twin henchmen Igg and Ook (who literally cry our “Igg” and “Ook” when they’re shot dead later by their employers).

James Coburn pops up entertainingly as the leader of a rag tag group of CIA operatives who use candy bars as code names (Almond Joy, Kit Kat, Snickers and Butter Finger). Coburn looks good when suited and hatted and even offers some welcome menace when needed. But when he’s in full combat gear at the finale it’s a bit far-fetched to think Bruce Willis would have trouble taking him on. But then considering how daft and Three Stooges-like the fight gets (and even ends up) we’ll forgive them.

The rest of the team is a thrill. Almond Joy and Snickers seem to be the only two normal members of the gang, until they get their comeuppance for being a bit too smug in their blo-dart and bomb firing antics. Kit Kat (David Caruso) has perhaps the most bizarre role as the mute member of the gang, who rarely appears on screen in the same disguise. Often he imitates other’s dress (including Willis and Andie MacDowell), and at the end he’s taken on the guise of a statue. Which leaves Butter Finger as the mullet headed blonde lunk who has to resort to reading children’s books to keep his mind occupied. He also doesn’t seem to know the difference between the French and the Italians. He does get a great laugh though at the end when his boss hears someone calling “Fore!!!” (which is Tommy firing a sticky bomb onto a wall) and asks if any of his team heard anything. The bomb then explodes causing all sorts of mayhem. Butter Finger then sticks his hand up and says “I, I heard something!” enthusiastically.

Yes, the film can be that dumb. But dumb fun has never been written or enjoyed this way since this film flopped at the box office.

The bad guys don’t stop there as there’s also the mafiosa Mario brothers (one of which is Stallone’s brother Frank). And there’s also time for a bent parole officer (who gets his, er, cut).

If there’s one really bad note in this musical film, it’s Andie MacDowell’s nun in disguise. She’s never been much of an actress in the first place, but asking her to perform comedy is a bit of a stretch for her. Occasionally she passes, but in one scene in particular where she’s required to be spaced out her head and start communicating with dolphins is one of the most annoying things ever committed to film. To be fair to the actress she was a last minute replacement so had little time to adjust.

I think critics expected to take this one a little too seriously, but judging by the colourful cast of characters and names and even the wacky trailer, this film had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Listen close and you’ll spot a variety of sound effects used for comic effect (ala The Three Stooges). Like when Minerva Mayflower flicks Hudson Hawk’s nose after putting him in his place and you can distinctly hear a “twang” noise occur. Not convinced? Ok, earlier when they rob the museum the two guards they knock over with a tripwire then have they heads knocked together and you get a distinct “pop” as they do so. It’s daft, it’s absurd, and I love it.

Steven Hurst

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