Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

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[Note from the author: Before reading this article, I strongly suggest you read the Mega Recap we did for this movie back in 2005, which can be found right here.]

Twenty years ago, Bruce Willis took all the audience goodwill and general success he earned from the Die Hard films and Moonlighting, and proceeded to piss them both away with Hudson Hawk. A terrible mishmash of action and comedy, this movie was not much more than Bruce Willis smirking his way through the biggest vanity project since Star Trek V.

It made little to no money, was soundly thrashed by the press and audiences, and in 2005, it was gang-stomped to within an inch of its miserable, smirking life by this very site. I took part in that, and I’ve come back to do much the same to the special edition DVD that came out in 2007.

Yes, in honor of the film’s 15th anniversary in 2006, a special edition DVD was put together. The fact that this DVD didn’t come out until the following year is, to me, quite appropriate, given the movie it was meant to honor. My guess is that somewhere during the process somebody said, “Wait a second; we’re doing a special edition for what?

(Funnily enough, they had already prepared special “15th Anniversary Edition” artwork for the release, which obviously had to be changed after they missed the anniversary.)

Caption contributed by Albert

Hey, they tried.

And I say all this as someone who doesn’t entirely loathe the movie. I think it’s a steaming pile of dog crap, but I find it an oddly watchable steaming pile of dog crap. I think it’s mainly that I like the idea of it more than the actual film. The general tonality of the script, minus the rather needless bits of gruesomeness, is something I sort of dig.

I’ll put it this way: for me, it’s a bad movie in the same bizarre league as Deadfall.

I’ll admit this is a purely personal failing on my part, and would like to point out that I’ve also willingly put myself through Gigli, Wild World of Batwoman and at one point was considering recapping The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, so my sanity can certainly be called into question.

For a special edition, the disc is rather uninspired. There’s a director’s commentary track, but it’s the same track from the first DVD release. There’s also a trivia track, some deleted scenes, two short featurettes, and a music video. If you’re wondering where the trailer for the movie is… What the hell is wrong with you?

I’ll save the commentary track for last, since it’s really the only thing of substance on here. With that, let’s get on with the show!

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We begin with a first for these recap supplements, a dose of Video Box Idiocy™. On the back cover, we of course manage to find the one silly bastard movie reviewer who liked this film, assuming the quote from the Washington Post reading, “Exhilarating, one-of-a-kind movie. This hawk flies!” isn’t taken completely out of context.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Even more amusing is the ad copy, which seems to think the Andie MacDowell character is a schizophrenic. This leads me to the conclusion that the copywriter either never saw the movie, or did the smart thing and got drunk off his ass before watching it.

And now for the DVD itself and its extras, which seem to be done in the style of the movie. Self-absorbed, pointless, and, well, pointless again. Trust me, you’ll see why soon enough.

Featurettes:

The Story of Hudson Hawk:

This piece runs just under thirty minutes, and for those of you hoping for a meaty look at the difficult trial by fire that surely was the making of this godforsaken movie, I hope you can handle disappointment.

This is just thirty minutes of Bruce Willis and his buddy Robert Kraft, the film’s executive producer, farting around on the piano while occasionally letting a little bit of interesting info slip out.

The first few minutes are just Kraft playing the piano while Willis strangles a cat—uh, I mean sings a blues song. Seriously, the last time I heard sounds like that come out of something living, the end result was a visit from the ASPCA.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

They talk for a bit about how they met (six minutes in so far) before finally getting into the origins of the movie a bit. Evidently, it came out of a song idea Kraft had, which Bruce decided to build a script around. Given the depth of the plot, I’d say that figures.

The film was initially conceived as a more serious action movie, sort of along the lines of a “James Bond: The Early Days” type of story. This was quickly jettisoned in favor of what we ended up with.

Some more meandering stories follow, and I have to say that Bruce just seems bored to tears talking about this movie. Can’t say I blame him.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

He does talk a little about the surreal popularity the film has in some circles, noting that it was intended to be funny, and he believes the end product was funny. He still has a certain affection for the movie, which is nice. At least he enjoyed the goddamned thing.

It’s a nice enough piece, as long as you’re not expecting much.

My Journey to Minerva:

This is just bizarre. In this eleven minute piece we are treated to the lovely—wait, no. Hang on. Okay, the not-entirely-unattractive-provided-you-have-a-thing-for-dour-middle-aged-lesbian-stand-up-comics-with-too-much-collagen-in-their-lips (wordy, isn’t it?) Sandra Bernhard, here talking about playing Minerva Mayflower.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Ms. Bernhard delivers a deadpan monologue about her experiences making the movie. Short clips from the film are interspersed throughout, and the end result tells us…Well, not a whole hell of a lot, really. This is more of a performance piece than anything else, with Sandra just blathering on and on. Let me put it this way: by the time we’re a third of the way through the piece, she’s still on the plane heading to Rome for principal photography.

She does find time to toss in a little bit of political commentary, mentioning Condoleezza Rice’s shopping trip in New York while New Orleans was dealing with Hurricane Katrina, saying it was a true “Minerva moment”. No, I don’t know why. But then, I don’t know why anybody would want a special edition of this movie, either!

Moving on, she talks a little about her wardrobe, and Bunny the dog, calling her “the richest little bitch in the entire universe”. There’s an odd patch where she’s either spoofing the notion of a puffed up actor talking about their craft (in which case it’s mildly amusing), or dead serious (in which case it’s just boring).

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

It goes on for a while longer, with only a few little tidbits of interest here and there. The big problem with this thing is that Bernhard seems to be incapable of simply doing a straightforward interview piece. Not that I really give a shit, and it is admittedly an amusing way to talk about the movie, but when the woman is as deadpan as Steven Wright but nowhere near as funny? It falls flat.

Deleted Scenes:

This is a five minute reel of deleted bits, including one entire deleted subplot. To get the small stuff out of the way quickly, there’s a little bit of special effects stuff with the Da Vinci glider, and some scenes with Danny Aiello that don’t add up to much outside of pacing issues.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Especially useless is the story behind Aiello’s character’s nickname of “Tommy Five-Tone”, which just boils down to him beating up a guy in a bar, and the beating causing the man to make five peculiar noises as the hits came.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

And for the main event of this section: the Little Eddie sequences. As I noted in the Mega Recap, there’s a shot of James Coburn’s character as he plummets off a cliff where he has a photo of a monkey stuck to his beret. Now we find out the reason for it.

We begin with a bit from the beginning of the film, after Tommy picks up Hawk from prison. Hawk asks Tommy why he didn’t bring “Little Eddie”, and is horrified to learn that the monkey was assassinated the previous evening. Yeah, this really happens and no, this isn’t a dream.

There’s even a headline in the Daily News covering it (complete with a headline about the Yankees losing, which is referenced later), after which we see Bruce Willis overact a grief stricken cry.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Next, we get a deleted snippet from the first scene with the Mario brothers, where Hawk asks Cesar who killed the monkey, only to learn it wasn’t them.

A bit with Tommy, Anna, and Hawk follows, concerning a story about Little Eddie and a monkey prostitute (you don’t want to know, believe me).

And then we end with Hawk slapping the photo on Coburn’s hat at the end of their fight and yelling, “Say hello to Little Eddie, motherfucker!”

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Evidently, Little Eddie was knocked off by the CIA. No, we don’t find out why, and to be honest, I could live a million lives of happiness and peace with mental clarity the likes of which would make a Buddhist monk green with envy without knowing, and be totally cool with it.

According to the DVD, the whole Little Eddie subplot was cut for “pacing reasons”. You know, as opposed to it being mind-bendingly weird, stupid, pointless, dull, unfunny, and just plain odd.

Audio Commentary with director Michael Lehmann:

Michael Lehmann offers a solid track, keeping things light and conversational. There’s the prerequisite ass-kissing of the cast, but unlike Joel Schumacher, Lehmann has a pleasant enough voice and speaking rate that it doesn’t grate too much.

Notable Notes:

Lehmann begins by saying he won’t be divulging any of the problems the production had, which sort of renders it a rather toothless track, but I can respect the man not wanting to bash anyone.

William Conrad was chosen as the narrator because of his work on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Evidently, the tone of the film was supposed to be similar to that show, though I can’t say I recall Bullwinkle ever bloodily smashing Boris’ face into a phone booth. In all fairness, I haven’t seen every Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.

ILM handled the post-production effects for the gold-making machine.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

A lot of the humor was influenced by some of the films James Coburn did in the ‘60s, which explains a lot, really. Think about it. How would you react, in 1991, to a person wearing day-glo bell bottoms, a shirt that looked like someone put a clown in a blender, “John Lennon sunglasses”, and flip-flops?* Exactly. You would get as far away from that weirdo as you possibly could, which audiences in 1991 certainly did!

[*Venice Beach, CA doesn’t count.]

It’s a testament to Lehmann that he can find something nice to say about Frank Stallone. Sure, it’s just saying he likes how the man pronounces the word “spatulas”, but it’s something.

Lehmann has a sense of humor throughout the piece, noting half-jokingly (I hope) that the other film that used the trick with the security cameras from the auction house robbery scene (presumably Speed) owes them some props. He repeats the gag later in the track, when the dog goes through the window at the end, and Lehmann references There’s Something About Mary.

Lehmann repeatedly defends the oddities in the movie by remarking that the film wasn’t supposed to make sense. I think you can fill in your own smartass remark there.

In an early draft, the Alfred character was a seven foot tall Zulu warrior, and Lehmann was talking with Wilt Chamberlain about playing the role. I assume he then saw Wilt in Conan the Destroyer and said, “Never mind, we’ll just go with an English guy.”

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Proving that Starbucks wasn’t always our Caffeine Overlord, there was a concern that the many references to cappuccino would go over the heads of audiences.

The scene with the gurney was partly inspired by a scene in the Jerry Lewis film The Disorderly Orderly. Haven’t we learned by this point in history that having Jerry Lewis as an influence is a really bad career choice?

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Bernhard and Richard E. Grant were encouraged by Lehmann to play their characters as over the top as possible. Thanks, Mr. Lehmann. By the way, go to movie director hell. You’ll have a lot to chat about with Mr. Bay.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

During the shoot in Italy, Joel Silver had a Catholic priest bless the set. Given how the film turned out, I’m pretty sure it didn’t take.

Apparently, the line “I’ll torture you so slowly, you’ll think it’s a career!” is an accurate reflection of Lehmann’s experiences directing the movie. Pity he’s too nice a guy to give us the goods. This is a decent commentary, but man, does it get bland at points!

Lehmann repeatedly apologizes for the exposition scenes. Yes, but what about the other 93 minutes, Michael?

As I noted in my part of the Mega Recap, Lehmann remarks that the continuity errors and various other flubs were put in intentionally. I think I put it best in the recap, so I won’t even try to top the past version of myself. That sort of thing can fracture time. Safety first, safety always.

In the script, there was initially a huge sequence in the Kremlin that got scrapped, but bits and pieces are used (mainly, the action beats that take out Kaplan and his gang) throughout the third act.

Lehmann recommends reading Richard Grant’s book as well. So what the hell are you waiting for?

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

The “hat convention” line was one of many that were shot. Kind of makes you wonder what they didn’t use if that’s the best they had. As with everything, Lehmann says the film was trying to spoof the action genre.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

The improbable survival of Danny Aiello’s character was intentionally stupid.

Overall, it’s a solid commentary.

The rest of the extras are a shitty early ‘90s music video for Dr. John’s theme song, and a trivia track.

Recap Supplement: Hudson Hawk (1991)

It’s not a great DVD, but then again, it’s not a great movie either.

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

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