Cult Classics: Hudson Hawk

It seemed like everyone wanted Hudson Hawk to fail before it was released, it’s the sort of vanity project that certain people can’t stand to see succeed, as Bruce Willis came up with the storyline and starred in this comedy about two thieves who are blackmailed in to stealing parts of a machine designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Oh, and he also sings in it a lot too, and reviews of his musical work have always been less than kind. And so flop it did, and much mockery took place. But as the years have worn on repeat views have never disappointed, there’s just something rather charming about this box office disaster.

It’s got one of those plots that The Sun would describe as complicated and confusing, but its not at all, and only those who found Toy Story perplexing might struggle with anything here. At the beginning Bruce’s just been released from prison, vowing, like all filmic ex-cons, never to commit another crime again. Of course as soon as you hear this you know it’s not going to be long before Willis is on the wrong side of the law once again, and indeed it only takes about five minutes before he’s blackmailed in to stealing parts of an alchemy machine Da Vinci designed to turn metal into gold. Cue robbery scenes, much slapstick comedy and a fair few explosions.

Danny Aiello co-stars as Willis’ partner, and straight man, carrying the role off with a smooth charm, as the pair commit crimes whilst singing old fifties show tunes, and Andie MacDowell provides the love interest as an undercover spy nun for the Vatican. MacDowell’s been knocked over the years for her acting abilities but she’s clearly enjoying herself greatly here, and that leads to her being a likeable and sympathetic character. The film’s main villains, Darwin and Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard respectively) are ridiculously over the top Bond villain parodies, and a joy to watch throughout with Grant relishing the cheesiness of the role, even if he later came to criticise the film – when Mark Kermode said he liked it Grant responded “It was a stinking pile of steaming hot donkey droppings and you are an idiot”. There are also a fair few henchman around for Willis to dispatch in increasingly violent yet fun ways, including CSI Miami’s David Caruso as Kit Kat, an agent for a mysterious government agency run by James Coburn.

So it all sounds rather daft, yeah? Well sure, but at least it’s intentional stupidity for a change, and I guess I like Hudson Hawk simply because it tries so hard. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s doubtful if it’ll trouble many people’s top 10 film lists, but at least you can see what Willis was trying to do – mix the hard ass action found in Die Hard with a bit of Chaplin-esque comedy and the smart asides found in Moonlighting. At times it works really well, and for every joke that’s slightly iffy there’s another right behind it to try and improve on it, and the general pace of the film should be admired by all who hate the recent trend of ridiculously over long and over ponderous movies.

From the Pope watching Mr Ed on tv to Sandra Bernhard’s dog, Bunny, being shot out of a window, whilst it’s all rather preposterous it’s ultimately so engaging that it gets away with it. And any film which sees Fred from Coronation Street (John Savident) being described as ‘a constipated warthog’ just before he explodes, and Andie MacDowell doing an impression of a dolphin whilst being tortured, deserves to be seen at least once.

Alex Finch.
https://twitter.com/comedytowatch

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