Scott Harris February 13, 2013
Bruce Willis is back (as if he could ever truly leave us) with the latest installment of his long-running “Die Hard” action franchise, “A Good Day to Die Hard.” And that’s cool; after all, everyone enjoys a good Bruce Willis movie (as if there’s any other kind of Bruce Willis movie). But as much as we love “Die Hard,” there’s one Bruce Willis film we love even more that inexplicably has never had a sequel — even though it’s the best film of his career.
The movie? Michael Lehmann’s “Hudson Hawk.”
Oh, sure, “Hudson Hawk” has spent over two decades as an industry punch line, but that’s only because it’s not very good. But we say, why settle for merely being good when you can be legendary instead? So with that in mind, here are nine reasons why “Hudson Hawk” is the coolest cult film ever… even if it’s still waiting for a cult.
1. Bruce Willis Co-Wrote It! Willis, of course, is a man of many talents, but he’s not exactly known as a writer. In fact, “Hudson Hawk” is the only writing credit in his career. And that makes it even more important, not just as a movie, but as a cultural artifact. After all, with Willis writing it himself, “Hudson Hawk” is the clearest and most direct look at what goes on inside that famously bald head of his.
2. The Music Speaking of Willis’ many gifts, the man is also a bit of a musician, having recorded three albums and landed a top five hit in the UK. That talent is on full display in “Hudson Hawk,” which features music as a main part of the plot, as Hawk and his partner Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) sing classic songs in order to time their escapades. The duo even contributed two songs to the soundtrack, which is a must-listen for any Willis fan.
3. Danny Aiello Of course, it should come as no surprise that Aiello is a bit of a crooner. After all, over the course of his long career, Aiello has done just about everything, from stage and television to acclaimed films like “Do the Right Thing.” It’s a bit forgotten now, but Aiello was something of an action star in the 80’s, co-starring alongside Jackie Chan in 1985’s “The Protector” among other things. Aiello is the thinking man’s tough guy and “Hudson Hawk” is the perfect vehicle for his unique blend of soulful introspection and serious ass-kicking.
4. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ Author Dan brown has previously been accused of swiping elements of his bestseller “The Da Vinci Code,” but we’re not sure anyone has made the “Hudson Hawk” connection before. But there are more than a few similarities, as “Hudson Hawk” revolves around a plot to find Leonardo Da Vinci’s long-lost alchemy machine, which can transmute lead into gold. Among the main groups searching for this magic machine? The Catholic Church, as embodied by Andie MacDowell’s Vatican espionage agent, Sister Anna Baragli. Which leads us to…
5. The Love Interest Is a Nun Every good action flick needs a love interest, but usually the love interest isn’t a nun. Nothing terribly untoward actually occurs between Willis and MacDowell, but the chemistry is clearly there, adding a certain forbidden edge to “Hudson Hawk’s” playful banter. Just think how much better “Die Hard” would have been if John McClane was trying to save his nun crush from terrorists and you’ll understand how magical this film really is.
6. Bruce Willis Kills the Mario Brothers Willis and his team of co-writers packed the screenplay full of pop culture references, but perhaps the weirdest is the fact that the assassins sent to kill him are, um, the Mario Brothers. We’re not sure which one is supposed to be Mario and which one is Luigi, but even stranger than Nintendo’s beloved plumbers getting offed by Willis is the fact that one of them is played by Frank Stallone. If they had managed to get Sly to play the other Mario Brother, “Hudson Hawk” would likely be the greatest film in the history of cinema. As it stands, “Hudson Hawk” is merely one of them.
7. James Effing Coburn The late, great James Coburn may be best known for such timeless classics as “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape,” but he’s equally fantastic in “Hudson Hawk,” where he plays the main bad guy, sinister CIA chief George Kaplan. Coburn is pretty much the embodiment of cool and seeing him go toe-to-toe with Willis is a rare treat.
8. It’s Award Winning Oddly, “Hudson Hawk” was completely snubbed by the Oscars in 1992 (Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” dominated the event) but it was a very different story at the Razzies. Nominated in six categories, “Hudson Hawk” won for Worst Picture, Worst Director (Michael Lehmann) and Worst Screenplay. Two decades later, the vitriol aimed at “Hudson Hawk” borders on inconceivable, but we like to think it’s just a sign of how prescient the filmmakers were.
9. Don’t Believe the Hype So what does this all add up to? Well, for our money, “Hudson Hawk” is a perfect case of not believing the hype. Sure, it’s not perfect — in fact, portions of it are downright bizarre — but “Hudson Hawk’s” biggest failure is simply not fitting into the industry’s cookie-cutter mold. There’s nothing Hollywood likes more than formula and since there’s nothing formulaic about “Hudson Hawk’s” highly idiosyncratic vision, the film has become an easy target for those looking to hammer down the protruding nail. Our suggestion: Check it out and decide for yourself. Because while “Hudson Hawk” isn’t for everyone, it is for someone and that someone could be you. Welcome to the cult.
Categories: FeaturesTags: A Good Day to Die Hard, Bruce willis, Hudson hawk