Saturday, July 09, 2011

NIGHTHAWKS (1981) - Bruce Malmuth

Though only a year into the new decade, 1981's Nighthawks is far removed from the streetwise '70s NYC action thriller it desperately longs to be. The movie is rife with motivational and geographical potholes, routinely sacrificing logic in favor of neat action set pieces. In short, the perfect '80s actioner in embryonic form.

Why would a supposedly smart international terrorist (Rutger Hauer) expose himself by shooting someone in the back in a crowded disco for no good reason when the cops aren't sure of his identity yet? To prompt a foot chase through the streets and subways of Midtown, of course. Why would a group of U.N. Delegates be taking the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island? The better to be taken captive in a nifty mid-air hostage situation, obviously.

Nighthawks definitely has its hard slap to the forehead moments, but that doesn't mean it's not solid '80s fun. It's great to see a young Hauer doing his Scary Aryan thing in his prime. It's great to see Billy Dee Williams hoofing it on the gummy sidewalks of New York instead of the floating walkways of Cloud City. And Stallone, well, at least you get to see him in drag. Twice.

The whole time I was watching Nighthawks I couldn't help but notice how badly it wanted to be The French Connection. From the foot chases to the "international element" pursued by NYC beat cops, it was all painfully obvious which movie master it served. So imagine my (lack of) surprise when I go to the Nighthawks Wikipedia page to discover that the script for this one was originally set to be the never-realized The French Connection III. Starring Gene Hackman and...Richard Pryor?

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