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Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk is a 1991 film, directed by Michael Lehmann. Bruce Willis stars in the title role and also co-wrote the story. Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, David Caruso, Lorraine Toussaint, Frank Stallone, Richard E. Grant, and Sandra Bernhard are also featured.

The live action film makes heavy use of cartoon-style slapstick, including sound effects, which enhances the movie's signature surreal humour. The plot combines material based on conspiracy theories, secret societies, and historic mysteries, as well as outlandish "clockpunk" technology à la Coburn's Our Man Flint movies of the 1960s.

A recurring plot device in the film has Hudson and his partner Tommy "Five-Tone" (Aiello) singing songs concurrently but separately, to time and synchronize their exploits. Willis-Aiello duets of Bing Crosby's Swinging on a Star and Paul Anka's Side by Side feature on the movie's soundtrack.

Plot

The story begins with Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins (Willis), a master burglar and safe-cracker, attempting to celebrate his first day of parole from prison with a cappuccino. Before he can get it, he is blackmailed by various entities, including his own parole officer, a minor Newark Mafia family (headed by Stallone), and the CIA (Coburn along with Caruso and Toussaint and others), into doing several dangerous art heists. Throughout the movie, Hudson attempts to enjoy a cappuccino, but is foiled each time.

The holders of the various players' puppet strings turn out to be a "psychotic American corporation", Mayflower Industries, run by a husband-and-wife team (Grant and Bernhard) and their blade-slinging butler. The company, headquartered in the Esposizione Universale Roma (E.U.R.) in Rome, is seeking to take over the world by reconstructing "La Macchina dell'Oro", a machine purportedly invented by Leonardo da Vinci which converts lead into gold. A special assembly of crystals needed for the machine to function are hidden in a variety of Leonardo's artworks: the Sforza, the Da Vinci Codex, and a scale model of DaVinci's helicopter design.

Sister Anna Baragli (MacDowell), initially his tail and later his refuge (and subsequent love interest), is an operative for a secretive Vatican counter-espionage agency, called the Vatican Organization by George Kaplan, which makes an unexplained arrangement with the CIA to assist in the Roman portion of Hudson's mission, though apparently intending all along to use the connection to foil the robbery at St. Peter's Basilica.

The movie culminates in a showdown at Leonardo's castle, between the remaining CIA agents, the Mayflowers, and the team of Hudson, Five-Tone, and Baragli, to stop the Mayflowers from successfully operating the machine.

Cast
Actor/Actress Role
Bruce Willis Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins
Danny Aiello Tommy Five-Tone
Andie MacDowell Anna Baragli
Richard E. Grant Darwin Mayflower
Sandra Bernhard Minerva Mayflower
James Coburn George Kaplan
Donald Burton Alfred
Andrew Bryniarski Butterfinger
David Caruso Kit Kat
Lorraine Toussaint Almond Joy
Don Harvey Snickers
Doug Martin Igg
Steve Martin Ook
Leonardo Cimino The Cardinal
Frank Stallone Cesar Mario
Carmine Zozzora Antony Mario
Burtt Harris Gates

Reception

The film generally received negative critical reviews and was overall a box office bomb. It received Razzie Awards for Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture. In his autobiography, With Nails, Richard E. Grant diarizes the production of the film in detail, noting the ad-hoc nature of the production and extensive rewriting and replotting during the actual filming. Willis went on to become one of the leading box-office stars of the 1990s, but has not made any further forays into scriptwriting. The film was popular in Japan due to some similarities to the Lupin III manga and animated series.

Part of the reason for the box office failure is that the film is clearly intended as an absurd comedy and yet was marketed as an action film one year after the success of Die Hard 2. When the film came to home video the tag line "Catch The Adventure, Catch The Excitement, Catch The Hawk" was changed to "Catch The Adventure, Catch The Laughter, Catch The Hawk". The film has fared much better on home video.

Soundtrack listing

Music composed and conducted by Michael Kamen for the film. Released by Varese Sarabande in 1991, there are eleven tracks in all.

  1. Hudson Hawk Theme - Dr. John (05:38)
  2. Swinging on a Star - Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello (02:53) - Sung in incorrect order of verses (the plot device in the movie refers to the original track length as 5:32)
  3. Side by Side - Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello (02:18) (the plot device in the movie refers to the original track length as 6:00)
  4. Leonardo (04:55)
  5. Welcome to Rome (01:46)
  6. Stealing the Codex (01:58)
  7. Igg and Ook (02:22)
  8. Cartoon Fight (02:54)
  9. The Gold Room (05:57)
  10. Hawk Swing (03:41)
  11. Hudson Hawk Theme (Instrumental) (05:18)

Video game

A video game based on the film was released in 1991 for various home computers and game consoles. Sony Imagesoft released versions of the game for the NES and Game Boy, while Ocean Software released it for the Commodore 64, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST. It is a side-scrolling game where the player, as the Hawk, must steal the Sforza and the Codex from the auction house and the Vatican, respectively. Then Castle Da Vinci has to be infiltrated in order to steal the mirrored crystal needed to power the gold machine. On his journey, Hawk must face many oddball adversaries, including dachshunds that try to throw him off the roof of the auction house, janitors, photographers, killer nuns, and a tennis player (presumably Darwin Mayflower).

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