Hudson Hawk (1991) (part 4 of 13)

We join Hawk and Tommy, our intrepid duo, as they briskly walk down a sidewalk wearing white jumpsuits and carrying plastic tubing. They continue their little trivia game, where Tommy says the name of a song, and Hawk tells him the song’s running time right down to the second.

Eventually, we’ll find out the purpose of this game: This is how they time their heists. If they have, say, five minutes and ten seconds to do a particular task, they’ll both sing a song with a running time of exactly 5:10. That makes perfect sense, what with things like clocks and stopwatches being as unreliable as they are.

However, Hawk still isn’t completely into the spirit of the heist, asking existential questions about other things he could be doing (e.g., “How come I’m not out trying to get laid tonight?”), but Tommy reassures him that this is the best way to spend an evening. They walk right past the auction house, with Tommy “hilariously” saying hello to guard, and then they round the corner to the fitness club across the street.

Caption contributed by Torgo's Hand

“Cheer up, Bruce, working a minimum wage job after being a celebrity isn’t so bad!”

They make their way up to the penthouse, where they find a large indoor pool. A few half-hearted attempts at humor are bandied about, along the lines of “no horseplay around the pool”, but we’re on a schedule here, so I won’t waste our time getting into these “jokes”. They take one of the lane dividers out of the pool and continue up to the roof.

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They strip out of their jumpsuits to reveal the more traditional all-black ensemble one would generally associate with cat burglars. Hawk ties a life preserver to the end of the lane divider rope, and Tommy winds up and throws it over to the roof of the auction house, and manages to get a ringer on a vent. And I do mean a ringer, as someone in the Foley booth pounds on a bell just as the foam preserver strikes metal.

Hawk and Tommy look down, and shore up their courage before starting across the rope to the other building.

Caption contributed by Steve

Amazingly, I was able to find a picture that demonstrated the same two faces I made as I watched this movie.

I was expecting a “hilarious” scene where the two of them tried to walk across the rope, but much to my relief, they take the more sensible route, inching along with their arms and legs. They banter a bit more, with Hawk asking if Tommy ate dinner that evening, because “this rope only holds nine hundred pounds!” Hey, it’s another fat joke on Tommy! You can’t have too many of those.

Hawk then lets go of the rope with his legs, causing it to shake. This frightens poor Tommy, who screams at Hawk to stop fooling around. And I do mean screams, as the two of them are yelling at the top of their lungs, their voices echoing between the buildings. I can see why Hawk was once hailed as the greatest cat burglar ever.

Once they’re safely across, Tommy throws the life preserver back to the other rooftop. Hawk yells at him for doing this, but Tommy says they’re covering their tracks, and they’ll be leaving through the basement. And if you’re not expecting this to come back to bite them in the ass shortly, then you might be the type of person who would really enjoy this movie.

The two of them go over to a set of glass doors and take out a fancy glass cutting tool. Hawk starts to make one of those perfectly round openings, then looks at Tommy closely. After a moment, he quips that he’d better make the opening a little bigger. More fat jokes! Bruce Willis is a comic genius!

Cut to a gallery inside the auction house, where a heavy-set security guard walks through the displays. He makes an elaborate display of sitting down in a wooden chair (which creaks and groans under his impressive weight), then dozes off.

A shot of a video camera lets us know he’s being monitored by two additional guards in a booth, who comprise the rest of the security staff. One of them is reading the phone book, and notices that there are “six hundred and seventy three Wongs in the phone book.” To this, his counterpart replies, “Hmm, hell of a lot of Wong numbers.” I nearly pulled a muscle rolling my eyes at that one.

And would you believe we hear a brief riff from “Chopsticks” on the soundtrack here? I wouldn’t believe it myself, but it happens.

As the guards amuse themselves, the camera pans slowly over to the hallway just outside, where Tommy and Hawk scoot across the floor on skateboards. Why? No idea. Where did they get the skateboards? Not a clue.

Caption contributed by Torgo's Hand

“Alright, I’m gonna wheel on ahead while you give birth.”

They get past the guard booth, and Hawk picks the lock on the room with all the VCRs that tape the security feeds. Back in the booth, the guards notice that “Big Stan” has nodded off while on patrol. They decide to have a little fun with him and shout into their two-way radio. This causes Big Stan to jump, which subsequently makes the already straining wooden chair shatter into hundreds of pieces.

Caption contributed by Steve

This is the caliber of jokes we’re dealing with, folks. “Wong numbers” and fat men breaking furniture. I’m only surprised this wasn’t Chris Farley.

Back to the VCR closet! Tommy explains the painfully obvious plan that he’s got worked out. They’ll rewind the tapes and set the machines on playback. The guards monitoring the cameras will actually see footage from earlier in the day, and Tommy and Hawk will be free to go about their business unnoticed. Holy crap, do you think this movie inspired Speed?

Tommy somehow decides they have a little over five minutes to get the job done, so Hawk selects the Bing Crosby rendition of “Swinging on a Star” to time this run. Amazingly, Tommy points out they could just use watches instead, but Hawk gives him a playful “shh”, and then they’re on their way. Sorry, but even a movie that acknowledges its stupidity is still a stupid movie.

So, for the next few minutes, imagine “Swinging on a Star” being performed by Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello while all the rest of the stuff I’m about to describe happens. …Or would you rather be a mule?

[And for those who can’t imagine, here’s an MP3 sound clip of the entire performance. And even though both Hawk and Tommy initially say the song lasts 5 minutes and 32 seconds, it only turns out to be around three minutes. I’m sure I speak for everyone involved with this Mega Recap when I say we are eternally grateful. —Albert]

Hawk heads back out into the hallway and rounds the corner on his skateboard. He’s almost noticed by Big Stan, but at that exact moment, Tommy hits the power on the main circuit breaker, and everything goes dark. Hawk uses this moment to slip into an oddly placed revolving door and get past Big Stan unseen. Why would someone put a revolving door in the back halls of an auction house? Oh right, so we could have this clever little gag.

…Or would you rather be a fish?

Tommy brings the power back up and hits play on all the VCRs, and the guards assume everything is back to normal when all the screens come online. Hawk makes his way to the same gallery where Big Stan’s disgraceful chair incident took place, and moves a painting aside to reveal a large safe. He uses his amazing safecracker skills to get it open, and immediately sees what they’ve been sent to get: Da Vinci’s miniature sculpture of a horse.

…Or would you rather be a pig?

Cut to the guard booth, where we notice a small flaw in the guys’ master plan: On the security monitors, the chair that was destroyed by Big Stan’s ass is now intact and in front of the painting again. Ruh-roh!

Hawk swipes the sculpture and heads into the main gallery just in time to see Tommy slide in and sing along with him. And they’re doing this at the top of their voices, just enjoying the experience of two old friends belting out a tune together. While in the middle of perpetrating the burglary of an auction house.

…And all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo…

Caption contributed by Steve

Witness, if you will, the only applause seen in theaters showing Hudson Hawk.

Meanwhile, the guards in the booth have just noticed that the chair has miraculously reassembled itself, and then, for more proof of Tommy’s brilliance, the guards see themselves on another screen, walking down the hallway. They realize something is amiss, and hurry off.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Ooh yeah, that really smarts. I hate when I do that.”

Back with the burglars again, Hawk still won’t shut up about how he didn’t want to do this, causing Tommy to shout at him (yes, shout at him) to snap out of it. He could be swingin’ on a star! They get their act together and sing the last few lines of the song as loudly as they can, before they giggle and do the “shhhhh!” thing to each other.

And now, music time is over, and the guards come in and shout for them to stop where they are. Tommy runs over and grabs a rope lying on the floor, and uses it to trip the guards. Hmm. When exactly did he find the time to set that up, I wonder?

As the guards spill to the floor, Hawk knocks their heads together, with a hollow wood block sound helpfully dubbed in. He then slaps the previously established thumb-cuffs on them, connecting their thumbs. Hawk and Tommy head for the exit, but Big Stan suddenly comes barreling through it.

As Big Stan shoots wildly at them, Hawk and Tommy make their way back to the roof. Oh right, the rope isn’t there anymore. They look over the side of the building and see a cloth awning several stories below, and Hawk comments on how happy he is that they covered their tracks. The two men then embrace and choose to meet their grisly fate together, bravely, as one.

I wish. Instead, they jump over the ledge and fall at least five stories before hitting the awning. Apparently they survived, because the movie then jump cuts to the handoff of the stolen statue.

But this jump cut is accomplished in the most bonkers way possible. When Tommy and Hawk land on the awning, we immediately cut to Hawk falling through the ceiling of an apartment [??] and landing in an easy chair, where his head makes that sound you hear in cartoons when someone shakes their head violently.

And you know, I get that this is supposed to be a wacky farce, but this has to be one of the most bizarre directorial flourishes ever. I mean, I honestly thought some kind of hole in time and space opened up, and Hawk fell right through into another dimension. That would make about as much sense as the rest of the film, really.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Hi, this is Bruce Willis for the all new La-Z-Boy Enema Recliner!”

The Mario Brothers are here, and they compliment Hawk on completing his mission. Gates the Parole Officer is also here, and he inspects the horse statue. He then asks the Brothers, and I quote, when “that Sebastian Cabot Buckingham Palace-looking butler-head motherfucker” is going to arrive.

As if on cue (well, I suppose it was his cue), a distinguished mustachioed gentleman in a crisp suit and even crisper British accent lets himself into the apartment. In this scene, they call him “Jeeves”, but it turns out his name is Alfred. He politely asks to inspect the stolen horse, and is pleased that it’s authentic.

Alfred seems to be the brains behind the caper, because he identifies the horse as being the last commissioned piece by Leonardo Da Vinci for the Duke of Milan. He casts a smarmy look at Hawk and says it’s “irreplaceable”. So, naturally, he immediately breaks it over Gates’ head, smashing it into a million pieces.

The Mario Brothers look at each other with expressions that I believe are meant to be “surprise” and “bemused confusion”, but this is Frank Stallone, and a worse actor than Frank Stallone, so all bets are off. Alfred reaches down into the remains of the statue and removes what we in the audience know is a piece of the reflector crystal thingy that Da Vinci used to change lead into gold.

Meanwhile, Gates gets to his feet, yelling about how he “stuck [his] neck out” for Alfred, and now he wants his “cut”. Unfortunately, he has angered the God of Puns, because Alfred flourishes his right arm, unleashing a spring-loaded blade that shoots out of his sleeve. He swipes the blade across Gates’ throat, sending him to the floor where he presumably bleeds to death.

“So much for his ‘cut’,” Alfred quips. And I do appreciate the river of blood gushing out of Gates’ throat here. It’s a nice touch for a lighthearted, screwball comedy.

Caption contributed by Steve

The first few dailies for Blade were not producing the desired results.

The Mario Brothers think all of this is incredibly hilarious. Antony Mario jokingly remarks that Hawk was promised a cut as well, and Alfred turns towards Hawk with the blade still out. But with another elaborate twitch, it collapses back into his jacket, and he instead helps Hawk up out of his chair. After a few mildly menacing comments, Alfred and the Mario Brothers leave.

Steve Pratte

An IT peon in the Midwest with potentially too much time on his hands and an affinity for Bollywood. I was first exposed to the glories of Crap Cinema when I was in high school and saw Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the first time. I've never been the same since. I happily serve The Booth as a moderator for a few forums and occasionally contribute material to the Mega Reviews.

Multi-Part Article: Hudson Hawk (1991)

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