At a time when the stars of Bruce Willis and Richard E. Grant were rising and rising, an unstoppable collaboration between the two should have been, well, unstoppable. Hudson Hawk brings those grand and polished star powers together in a feature that was post-Die Hard 2 and saw Grant preparing to work with the great Robert Altman. It seemed like a concept too hot to handle. What a lucky experience it would be to work on Hudson Hawk, and what a nightmare it turned into. Michael Lehmann overextends his reach as an artist and director, as does everyone involved in this ensemble car crash, struggling from the tonal whiplash of genre-bending ideas and stars not given a script worth their time.
Fluttering from medieval build-up to modern-day blowout, Hudson Hawk has neither the time nor patience to make either setting work. Once it builds itself up, it is already over and when it has access to its characters at opportune moments it never takes them. Hudson Hawk is a lengthy and almost frustrating series of almost happenings. In that traditional Hollywood fashion, there are more than a few moments that elicit nostalgia for the time. The inspiring music as an almost comic moment occurs, with an unwilling bloke strapped to a flying machine that soon transitions into the modern day is achingly old-school and cries out for the early 1990s. It looks quite good still. But the introduction of Willis’ eponymous character is the beginning of the downward turn.
A sad state of affairs, especially when Willis is amicable in his leading role here. His turn here is the usual rebel without cause affair that sees James Coburn, Danny Aiello and Andie Macdowell rally around him with wavering levels of consistency. It all feels like a sad waste to see great performers with solid backlogs of work come together with the hopes of making something greater. Hudson Hawk is not a failure because the performers don’t care, but because they care too much. They are on top form, particularly Aiello, a masterclass of a supporting performer who, time and time again, elevates the script and those stuck there with him.
His tireless efforts fall on the deaf ears of relatively placid Lehmann direction and the weighty script that comes with it. Aiello is not the only performer trooping on through, nose to the grindstone with little hope of coming out of this experience clean. Grant wrote of his experiences on Hudson Hawk in deeply horrified fashion in his book, With Nails, but the experience is best engaged with than reading of. When motionless, Frank Stallone really does look like his successful brother. Unfortunately, Hudson Hawk relies on that best. When characters are unmoving, when they don’t have to say anything, they are projections of their great successes of the time. It is when they have to depend on Lehmann and a too many cooks scenario for the script, that included Willis as a writing credit, that Hudson Hawk begins to croak.