Twitter Plot Summary: A cat burglar gets involved in matters above and beyond his usual capers and invites bad guys to slurp his butt.
Someone somewhere clearly thought that this was a good idea. Combining the disparate worlds of slapstick humour with what would otherwise be a serious crime adventure isn’t quite the sort of film you expect to receive, especially when you take into consideration that this stars a post-Die Hard Bruce Willis as the titular Hudson Hawk. Hawk is released from prison after several years inside, and despite claiming to want to go straight he quickly finds himself sneaking into a museum to steal a valuable piece of art, putting his skills as cat burglar and safe cracker to good use. Or rather, bad use.
Surreal moments follow, including at least one instance of Willis singing a duet with Danny Aiello whilst they rob the gallery, singing to time their heist to perfection. Moments such as this are fine in isolation, they’re fun, the banter between characters has spark to it, and it’s fun family adventure territory. Then the more adult aspects of the story creep in, and it’s all downhill from there.
It’s a real shame because slapstick is usually a sure thing, guaranteed to entertain and amuse. The key ingredients for a fun film are all there too – a generally likeable lead, his amusing friend, a love interest, and villainous roles that both the actors and the audience can sink their teeth into. There are a wide number of goons who are clearly designed to provide amusement, and an evil sister (Sandra Bernhard) who wears the trousers in the relationship with her brother, played with anarchic and enthusiastic vim by Richard E Grant. Until this film it’s hard to imagine anybody chewing the scenery with this much energy, yet Richard E Grant does so, and does it well.
But again, it just doesn’t work. Whilst the slapstick humour is on the whole quite amusing, the tonal imbalance of occasional blood loss and violence doesn’t gel. There is a reckless amount of swearing, yet rather than go full John McClane, at one point Hudson invites a villain to “slurp (his) butt”. Seriously. Matters would have improved had the Die Hard clause been invoked, at least then it would have been worth seeing. The frustration Hudson experiences when trying to get his first sip of cappuccino in seven years is felt by the audience, but for all the wrong reasons.
The intro sequence, whilst intended to add context to the heist that is due to take place later, leads you to think that you’ve started watching the wrong film. Set in the workshop of Leonardo Di Vinci, it’s an elaborate sequence that has a few decent jokes, and indicates that perhaps the film would have been better had it just stuck to this time period rather than jumping forward to the present day and becoming the mess it is.
And therein lies the problem with Hudson Hawk – its tightrope balancing act between family friendly slapstick and serious crime adventure film results in it flying headfirst into the abyss, never to return. Farewell Hudson Hawk, we barely knew you. It’s probably for the best. You can slurp my butt.