When I wrote about critics attacking a film with malevolent glee earlier this week, I was reminded of an earlier instance when I employed the same term in a review of a similarly reviled film. If it seems odd that I so clearly recall two words from a review I penned nearly twenty-five years ago, the explanation is simple: I mispronounced the word “malevolent” on the air, spitting out something that sounded like “male-vahl-ent.” I had read the word many times over, but I don’t believe I’d ever heard it spoken. Luckily, my radio show partner corrected me in the kindest, most casual way possible. Still, I stew over things like this for longer than seems humanly possible (I still occasionally get knots in my stomach over an accidentally mean thing I said to a fourth grade classmate in 1979). Anyway, I stand by this forgiving review of Hudson Hawk, though it’s worth noting that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen it.
When film critics begin putting together their respective lists of the worst films of 1991, many, if not most of them, will undoubtedly include the Bruce Willis action-comedy HUDSON HAWK. When the film saw theatrical release on Memorial Day Weekend of this year, critics pounced on it with malevolent glee…reviews were not just unfavorable…they were scathing…dubbing HUDSON HAWK the dud of the year. After a respectable, though disappointing opening weekend, the film’s box office figures plummeted…no doubt everyone left who still wanted to see HUDSON HAWK were too embarrassed to admit it. Well now HUDSON HAWK has reached home video, so maybe more people will give it a look in their living rooms, without fear of public scrutiny. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll discover that HUDSON HAWK is really not that bad. In the title role, Bruce Willis is a cat burglar trying to go straight who nonetheless gets dragged into a complicated scheme that encompasses the CIA, the Vatican, and Leonardo do Vinci. But the plot is secondary to the playful skewering of the action flick genre. The entire film is peppered with offhand remarks and inside jokes…may of which are very funny. Watching Willis and co-star Danny Aiello warble their way through “Swinging on a Star” during a heist or seeing Willis being dragged on a gurney behind a speeding ambulance during a crazy chase scene may not be highbrow entertainment, but there’s a certain offbeat fun to be had there. It’s true that the film is a muddled mess that is often so confused and confusing that it can become quite a task to watch, but denying that it’s often quite enjoyable is as inaccurate and unfair as proclaiming it a total failure. I didn’t recommend HUDSON HAWK when it was in the theaters, but I will recommend it for home video viewing, in large part because it deserved a better fate than critics and audiences were willing to give it the first time around. HUDSON HAWK may be an acquired taste, but don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that the first sampling will be unbearably sour.