Hudson Hawk is a movie about a cup of coffee. Released from prison, Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis) spills his first cup in the car and his second – in a fancy bar – is shot out from under him. Thus begins his quest for a cup of joe… and a few Leonardo Da Vinci pieces.
It is hard to make something of Hudson Hawk, a mad cap comedy caper with startling raw violence, chipper characters, and high priced double crosses. Hudson is stealing from the Vatican and museums for corporations, the CIA, and probably crossing back into the Vatican as well while this muddled narrative tries to make sense of itself.
Hawk is blackmailed into his cat burglar role the day he is released from prison. He was in so long, he had never seen E.T. or played Nintendo. He is a cultural relic, and in many ways, so is the film. It is an utterly brazen send-up of vintage crime capers without so much as an ounce of logic or central themes. Yes, there are gangsters and mobsters, but also villains that would make James Bond blush at their scheme. Bumbling cops and cross-dressing sidekicks clutter up the script as Hawk moves from one location to another, transitions usually complete with the editor’s hand.
The film is mired by tonal inconsistencies, a live action cartoon – complete with sound effects – that never grasps what it actually has. A bridge chase sees Bruce Willis on a rolling stretcher weaving between cars before the ambulance hits an inexplicable ramp, blowing up in mid-air. Gas is awfully volatile. Willis then lands right in the midst of his captors, as if they knew he would be there.
All of that works, while those darker elements sideline the humor. The film is ill-fitted to an R-rating, misplaced language jarring with the breezy action and self-aware dialogue. Key villains are a blend of bizarre personalities and vile actions, part of this sea that breaks apart the edges of the piece until has no central identity left.
Hudson Hawk can be a ton of fun. The finale is an especially wild piece of action, including a hilarious fist fight between Bruce Willis and James Coburn, an unlikely pairing used for all its worth. Wild production design splurges on the minutiae, and Willis proves to be a casting winner. Everything that surrounds him is shaky, unsettling territory.
The Blu-ray debut for this box office clunker comes saddled with Hollywood Homicide on the same disc because… they’re related? Somehow? Because comedy? Anyway, despite misgivings regarding the encode, Hudson Hawk fares as the better half, recipient of what appears to be a somewhat modern master. Sharpness seems sourced from a relatively high resolution source, although hints of edge enhancement do like to drop in.
Print damage is notable, scratches here and there breaking up the image slightly, although inconsistently. Some judder jars things as well. Most of the trouble can be sourced from the grain structure, or rather how the AVC encode presents said grain. Compression is a definite bother, any smoke or haze carrying instant repercussion. The opening scene in Da Vinci’s time is a mess, doubly so because of the credits running over it.
So far not so good, but Hudson Hawk has plenty of tricks. Color has been preserved well, and this transfer maintains natural, bright hues. Primaries are often substantial, adding to the cartoonish vibe. Contrast is vivid, and black levels are incredibly dark. Of course, they are brutal on shadow detail, so their density comes at a cost. If anything was heavily tweaked in the creation of this transfer, put your money on black levels.
As a final point and the one that solidifies a winning piece, it’s detail. Textured tremendously well with outstanding facial detail, close-ups are rendered brilliantly across the film. Medium shots feel natural, held back only by the compression, and location shots are perfect. Definition is all over this one, picking up a 1991 feature and helping it to feel modern. A close call, but a catalog winner from Mill Creek.
Something had to give, and thus, it is the audio. DTS-HD comes in as a stereo mix only, and fidelity feels ancient. Explosions are flat, dialogue has dried out with age, and the score is lost within the action. Whatever restorative work was in place for the video has clearly not passed over onto the audio.
This is about more than the loss of additional, modern surround channels, but suffocating sound that delivers no separation. Stereos come across as a single channel that sounds faded and lifeless. Hudson Hawk is the type of film that is larger than life, and the audio (or rather this mix) fails to be suitable.
You’ll get an extra movie, so that’s something, right? Otherwise, Mill Creek puts the film out barren.
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