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Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Produced by Joel Silver
Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza
Daniel Waters
Story by Bruce Willis
Robert Kraft
Starring Bruce Willis
Danny Aiello
Andie MacDowell
James Coburn
Sandra Bernhard
Richard E. Grant
Narrated by William Conrad
Music by Michael Kamen
Robert Kraft
Cinematography Dante Spinotti
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Michael Tronick
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million[1]
Box office $17,218,080 (USA)[2]

Hudson Hawk is a 1991 American action comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann.[3] Bruce Willis stars in the title role and also co-wrote the story. Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, David Caruso, Lorraine Toussaint, Frank Stallone, Sandra Bernhard, and Richard E. Grant are also featured.[4]

The live action film makes heavy use of cartoon-style slapstick, including sound effects, which enhances the movie's signature surreal humour. The plot combines material based on conspiracy theories, secret societies, and historic mysteries, as well as outlandish "clockpunk" technology à la Coburn's Our Man Flint movies of the 1960s.[5]

A recurring plot device in the film has Hudson and his partner Tommy "Five-Tone" (Aiello) singing songs concurrently but separately, to time and synchronize their exploits. Willis-Aiello duets of Bing Crosby's "Swinging on a Star" and Paul Anka's "Side by Side" feature on the film's soundtrack.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Soundtrack 3
  • Reception 4
  • Effect on TriStar Pictures 5
  • Home Media 6
  • Video game 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins (Bruce Willis)—"Hudson Hawk" is a nickname for the bracing winds off the Hudson River—is a master burglar and safe-cracker, attempting to celebrate his first day of parole from prison with a cappuccino. Before he can get it, he is blackmailed by various entities, including his own parole officer, a minor Mafia family headed by the Mario Brothers, and the CIA into doing several dangerous art heists with his singing partner in crime, Tommy "Five-Tone" Messina (Danny Aiello).

The holders of the puppet strings turn out to be a "psychotic American corporation", Mayflower Industries, run by husband and wife Darwin (Richard E. Grant) and Minerva Mayflower (Sandra Bernhard) and their blade-slinging butler, Alfred (Donald Burton). The company, headquartered in the Esposizione Universale Roma, seeks to take over the world by reconstructing La Macchina dell'Oro, a machine purportedly invented by Leonardo da Vinci (Stefano Molinari) that converts lead into gold. A special assembly of crystals needed for the machine to function are hidden in a variety of Leonardo's artworks: the maquette of the Sforza, the Da Vinci Codex, and a scale model of DaVinci's helicopter design. Sister Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) is an operative for a secretive Vatican counter-espionage agency, which has arranged with the CIA to assist in the Roman portion of Hawk's mission, though apparently intending all along to foil the robbery at St. Peter's Basilica.

Throughout the adventure, Hudson is foiled in attempts to drink a cappuccino. After blowing up an auctioneer to cover up the theft of the Sforza, the Mario Bros. take Hawk away in an ambulance. Hawk sticks syringes into Antony Mario's face and falls out of the ambulance on a gurney, and the Marios try to run him down with the ambulance as his gurney speeds along the highway. The brothers are killed when their driver, startled by the array of syringes in Antony's face, crashes the ambulance. Immediately afterwards, Hawk meets James Coburn) and his CIA agents–Snickers (Don Harvey), Kit Kat (David Caruso), Almond Joy (Lorraine Toussaint), and Butterfinger (Andrew Bryniarski)–who take him to Darwin and Minerva Mayflower. Hawk successfully steals the Da Vinci Codex from another museum, but later refuses to steal the helicopter design. Tommy Five-Tone fakes his death so they can escape. They are discovered and attacked by the CIA Agents, and Kaplan reveals that he and his agents stole the piece, and unlike Tommy and Hudson, had no problem killing the guards. Hawk and Tommy cause Snickers and Almond Joy to be killed by their own explosive device, and they escape. Kit Kat and Butterfinger take Anna to the castle where the Macchina dell'Oro is being reconstructed.

A showdown takes place at the castle between the remaining CIA agents, the Mayflowers, and the team of Hudson, Five-Tone, and Baragli. Kit Kat and Butterfinger are betrayed and killed by Minerva. Tommy fights Darwin and Alfred inside Darwin's speeding limo, and Hudson fights George Kaplan on the roof of the castle. Kaplan topples from the castle and lands of the roof of the limo. Alfred plants a bomb in the limo and escapes with Darwin; Tommy is trapped inside and Kaplan is hanging onto the hood. The bomb detonates as the limo speeds over a cliff. Darwin and Minerva force Hawk to put together the crystal powering the machine, but Hawk intentionally leaves out one small piece. When the Mayflowers activate the machine, it malfunctions and explodes, killing Minerva and Darwin. Hawk battles Alfred, using Alfred's own blades to decapitate him. Hawk and Baragli escape the castle and discover Tommy waiting for them at a cafe, having miraculously escaped death. Hawk finally gets to enjoy a cappuccino.



Music composed and conducted by Robert Kraft and Michael Kamen for the film. Released by Varèse Sarabande in 1991, there are eleven tracks in all.

  1. "Hudson Hawk Theme" - Dr. John (05:38)
  2. "Swinging on a Star" - Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello (02:53) - Sung in incorrect order of verses (the plot device in the movie refers to the original track length as 5:32)
  3. "Side by Side" - Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello (02:18) (the plot device in the film refers to the original track length as 6:00)
  4. "Leonardo" (04:55)
  5. "Welcome to Rome" (01:46)
  6. "Stealing the Codex" (01:58)
  7. "Igg and Ook" (02:22)
  8. "Cartoon Fight" (02:54)
  9. "The Gold Room" (05:57)
  10. "Hawk Swing" (03:41)
  11. "Hudson Hawk Theme" (instrumental) (05:18)

The song "The Power" by Snap! is featured, although not included on the soundtrack, when Hudson Hawk is taken for the first time to the headquarters of the Mayflowers. Minerva Mayflower, played by Sandra Bernhard, is sitting on a desk singing the song while it plays on her headphones.


The film received overall negative reviews, with a rotten 24% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews.[7]

In the Chicago Tribune, Terry Clifford observed that "the end result is being thrown up on selected screens this weekend, and the suspicion that this was a pooch turns out to be undeniably correct. Boring and banal, overwrought and undercooked, Hudson Hawk is beyond bad."[8]

As Kenneth Turan wrote in the Los Angeles Times: As Jack Matthews observed at the time:

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said of the film, "A movie this unspeakably awful can make an audience a little crazy. You want to throw things, yell at the actors, beg them to stop."[11] James Brundage of AMC filmcritic said the film was "so implausible and so over the top that it lets inconsistency roll off like water on a duck's back."[12]

It received three Razzie Awards for Worst Director (Michael Lehmann), Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture with additional nominations for Worst Actor (Bruce Willis), Worst Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant) and Worst Supporting Actress (Sandra Bernhard). In his autobiography, With Nails, Richard E. Grant diarises the production of the film in detail, noting the ad hoc nature of the production and extensive rewriting and replotting during the actual filming. Willis went on to become one of the leading box-office stars of the 1990s, but has not made any further forays into scriptwriting.

The film was also a Box office bomb, partly because the film was intended as an absurd comedy, yet was marketed as an action film one year after the success of Die Hard 2.[13] When the film came to home video the tag line "Catch The Adventure, Catch The Excitement, Catch The Hawk" was changed to "Catch The Adventure, Catch The Laughter, Catch The Hawk".[14]

Effect on TriStar Pictures

Hudson Hawk has the dubious distinction of being the final film produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment. As with United Artists when they were bought out by MGM, Columbia and Tri-Star were allowed to keep their own logos, and to continue making movies under their own names.

TriStar was first formed under similar circumstances: with stock purchased from Lord Grade's now-defunct ITC, following the costly failure of four ambitiously-expensive movies: Can't Stop The Music, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Raise The Titanic, and Saturn 3.

Home Media

The film was released twice on DVD, first in 1999 and again in 2007 with new extras. In 2013 Mill Creek Entertainment released the film for the first time on Blu-ray in a 2 Pack set with "Hollywood Homicide" all extras were dropped for the Blu-ray release.[15]

Video game

A video game based on the film was released in 1991 under the title "Hudson Hawk" for various home computers and game consoles. Sony Imagesoft released versions of the game for the NES and Game Boy, while Ocean Software released it for the Commodore 64, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST. It is a side-scrolling game where the player, as the Hawk, must steal the Sforza and the Codex from the auction house and the Vatican, respectively. Then Castle Da Vinci has to be infiltrated in order to steal the mirrored crystal needed to power the gold machine. On his journey, Hawk must face many oddball adversaries, including dachshunds that try to throw him off the roof of the auction house, janitors, photographers, killer nuns, and a tennis player (presumably Darwin Mayflower).


  1. ^ Greenberg, James (1991-05-26). "FILM; Why the 'Hudson Hawk' Budget Soared So High". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  2. ^ "Hudson Hawk".  
  3. ^ "Hudson Hawk". Washington Post. 1991-05-24. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  4. ^ "`Hawk` Better Fly". Chicago Tribune. 1991-06-02. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  5. ^ Plaskin, Glenn (1991-05-19). "Real `Hudson Hawk`". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  6. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1991-05-19). "Summer Movie Special : Bruce & Joel's Q & A Adventure : Partners-in-action Bruce Willis and producer Joel Silver fire away on everything from 'Hudson Hawk' to the press". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Terry, Clifford (1991-05-24). "Smug `Hudson Hawk` Looks Like A Turkey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  9. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1991-05-24). "Bruce Willis' 'Hudson Hawk' Fails to Fly as Comedy Caper". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  10. ^ Mathews, Jack (1991-06-09). "FILM COMMENT : Who Was That 'Moonlighting' Detective? Maybe He Can Piece It Together for Us". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  11. ^ Rolling Stone - Hudson Hawk
  12. ^ Filmcritic - Hudson Hawk
  13. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-05-28). "No Blockbusters Among This Crop of Memorial Day Movies".  
  14. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-05-29). Backdraft' Burns 'Hawk's' Wings at the Box Office"'".  
  15. ^

External links

Preceded by
Ghosts Can't Do It and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
Razzie Award for Worst Picture
12th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by
Shining Through
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