Hudson Hawk

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1991

Silver Pictures/Tri-Star Pictures

Directed by Michael Lehmann

Produced by Joel Silver

Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza/Daniel Walters

Story by Bruce Willis/Robert Kraft

There are those that will insist that HUDSON HAWK is a failure, a flop and a misguided project doomed from the outset to failure. I strongly disagree. It is a movie that along with “Big Trouble In Little China” “The Last Dragon” “The Assassination Bureau” “Sunset” “The Man With The Iron Fists” “Action Jackson” “Shoot ‘Em Up” “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” is a movie that nobody knew what to make of it because they couldn’t figure out what genre it was. Was it a caper movie? Yes. Was it a spy thriller? Yes. Was it a comedy? Yes. Was it action-adventure? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Whatever you want to throw in. HUDSON HAWK was all of those and more because like those other movies I named and much more besides it defined being put in a genre because the story took whatever it needed from whatever genre it wanted to, mixed in wonderful characters and then it hit the ground running at top speed and never stopped until the end credits. Long before the term was coined and before I even knew what it was, when I saw HUDSON HAWK in the theater back in 1991 I knew I was watching a New Pulp movie.

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Eddie Hawkins aka The Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis) is the world’s greatest cat burglar. That’s why on his first day out of prison after doing a dime, he’s blackmailed by his parole office and the Mario Brothers (not the ones you’re thinking of. These guys run a Mafia family). Along with his partner Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina (Danny Aiello) he pulls off the theft of the last commissioned work done by none other than Leonardo DaVinci, their individual tasks synchronized to the both of them singing “Swinging On A Star” at the exact same time. Yes, yes, I know how it sounds but if you’ve seen the movie I’m willing to bet that you’re grinning right now. Because the scene is impractical, silly, goofy and yet, you’re singing right along with Eddie and Tommy. Me, I admire a movie for having the audacity to even pull off such a notion. And what the hell, it’s downright FUN to watch.

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What gets Eddie interested in what is going on is that when he turns over the item he’s stolen to the Mario Brothers and their employer Alfred (Donald Burton) there’s an object inside which is desired by Alfred’s employers: Darwin and Minerva Mayweather (Richard E. Gant and Sandra Bernhard) who in a masterful comic performance always keep us an audience off guard as to what the hell these two whackos are going to do next. The object is also desired by CIA Director George Kaplan (James Coburn) and his ‘MTVIA’ Agents, all of whom are named after candy bars: Almond Joy (Lorraine Toussaint) Kit Kat (David Caruso) Snickers (Don Harvey) and Butterfinger (Andrew Bryniarsky) as well as by Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) who is a top operative for the Vatican’s own counter-espionage agency. Eddie is astounded to discover that the object was fabricated by none other than Leonardo DaVinci (Stefano Molinari who gets the best visual gag in the movie which also involves The Mona Lisa)

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The Mayweathers need Eddie to steal various DaVinci relics that will place in their possession the components of La Macchina dell’Oro. The last and greatest of DaVinci’s inventions. One that can turn lead into gold. The Mayweathers were supposed to be working with The Vatican and The CIA in this but oh those crazy kids decided to just go rogue and grab everything for themselves as they intend to use the power of La Macchina dell’Oro to control the world gold market. Hilarity ensues. As well as a lot of action and for me, at least, a fun movie.

My own personal theory as to why this movie wasn’t the hit it deserved to be back in 1991was that the year before, “Die Hard 2” completely blew all expectations to smithereens and made more money than the original. So people most likely went to the theater looking for something similar and simply didn’t know what to make of this goofy, pulp-inspired adventure. Moviegoers wanted to see more of John McClane or a character like him and just couldn’t get into this more laid back, less intense Bruce Willis who actually goes through most of the movie smiling and looking as if he’s having a great time.

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And for me, that’s one of the major pluses of HUDSON HAWK: everybody looks as if their having nothing but fun making this movie. David Caruso in particular stands out for me as he steals every scene he’s in without saying a word. Kit Kat communicates solely with business cards and by his wardrobe/costume in whatever scene he’s in. The chemistry between Willis and Aiello feels real and I could easily have seem them continue to play Eddie and Tommy in a Crosby/Hope style in future films. I love that is not only James Coburn in this movie but that sound effects and phone ringtones from his Derek Flint movies are used as well. “Bunny! Ball Ball!” The lush sets and gorgeous locations.

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Understand me, my intention is not to change your mind about HUDSON HAWK or indeed, any movie I review. It’s just for me to give you my insight as to why I like and/or love a particular movie and maybe intrigue and/or interest you enough to maybe want to see it for the first time or revisit it. HUDSON HAWK is one of those movies that everybody seems to either love or hate. You can put me firmly on the side of those who love it.

100 Minutes

Rated R

The Richard Pryor Show

1977

National Broadcasting Company (Original Airing)

Directed by John Moffitt

Produced by Burt Sugarman

Written by Richard Pryor, Robert Altman, Sandra Bernhard, Vic Dunlop, Paul Mooney, Tim Reid, Marsha Warfield and Robin Williams

Most people would know the brilliant Richard Pryor from his movie work and mainly hit Netflix to relive his amazing talent in that medium but if you ask them about his TV work you would probably get a look of bafflement.  Richard Pryor did a TV special for NBC and on the strength of that was then was given a contract for ten shows. Production was shut down after only four episodes were aired.  Fortunately we live in an age where nothing that has been televised is lost and THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW is available on DVD and while it’s nowhere near his legendary concert films, which is what you really want to see to get the raw Richard Pryor, his brief TV career is well worth a look at.

First of all, THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW is the only place you’re going to see Richard Pryor in comedy sketches with Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Tim Reid, Marsha Warfield, Johnny Yune, John Belushi, John Witherspoon (the voice of Grandpa on “The Boondocks”) and the legendary Paul Mooney who is probably the funniest man on the planet.  And before seeing this DVD if anybody had told me that Marsha Warfield could actually look hot I’d have called him or her a dirty liar.  But here she is and looking quite sexy in a couple of very funny sketches including one where she and Richard Pryor are in a restaurant and getting turned on by the ferocity in which they attack their food.

The sketch that is the major standout is the one where Richard Pryor is a bartender in the “Star Wars” bar of Mos Eisley.  Here he has to service all the major alien characters that we know and love from those movies.  And he acts just as we expect Richard Pryor to act in such a circumstance.  The best part is when Richard brings Greedo and the alien who looks like The Devil their drinks.  When you watch this scene you have to really look at Pryor’s face since he says absolutely nothing for two minutes and the aliens are gabbling at him in their own languages.  The live studio audience is cracking up and it’s obvious it’s not canned laughter.  The reactions are honest and it all comes from Pryor’s expressions.   It’s a brilliant example of how funny Richard Pryor could be when he said absolutely nothing and only worked with his facial and body expressions.

Another classic sketch is the one where Pryor is President Of The United States and he’s a press conference that starts off with the press (Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Time Reid, Paul Mooney among others) asking him questions about such lofty matters as The Neutron Bomb, Space Travel and The FBI’s persecution of Huey Newton and quickly degenerating into questions about why does The President like dating white woman and who his momma sleeps with.

My personal favorite of the comedy sketches are the ones where Pryor plays Mojo, a crazed backwater spiritual healer who doesn’t really heal…when a paralyzed woman comes to him and says she can’t walk, the dreadlocked Mojo screams; “Of course you cain’t walk!  You in dat damn wheelchair!” He kicks her out of the chair into the dirt and hollas: “Let Mojo handle IT!”  And there’s an improv piece where Richard Pryor, Sandra Bernhard, Robin Williams, Tim Reid, Marsha Warfield and Johnny Yune all play out-of-workers trying to get their unemployment checks from Paul Mooney that has to be seen to be believed.

Think that’s all?  There’s also a sketch where Richard Pryor plays the only black person on a lifeboat after The Titanic sinks that doesn’t end the way you think and another where Pryor plays a wino in London who has an unfortunately hilarious run-in with a certain doctor named Jekyll which leads to…well, you can guess the rest.  And some of the other sketches show another side of Richard Pryor such as the one where he plays a man who walks into a gun shop, eager to buy a gun…until the guns start to talk to him and tell them their histories of death.   It’s effective and it shows a different side of Richard Pryor.  The man was a naturally gifted actor and this sketch is a nice little showcase for his talent as he reacts to the stories of death these guns are telling him.  And there’s another sketch where he plays a homeless man who puts on a pathetically earnest show for the neighborhood kids that says more about human nature than I’m comfortable with.

But I’ve saved the best for last: The DVD has Richard Pryor doing his legendary and totally uncensored version of what I call “The Miss Rudolph Story” but which is officially known as “Little Tiny Feet”.  It’s the story that Pryor does as his Mudbone character and he relates how he takes a friend of his who has been cursed with these…really, really BIG feet by a jilted girlfriend to the voodoo lady Miss Rudolph to get him cured.  What happens after Mudbone gets his friend to Miss Rudolph is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard and I’m not going to spoil it for you here.  Suffice it to say that I’ve heard the story perhaps 50 times in my life and the way Richard Pryor/Mudbone tells it, I laugh every time I hear it as though it were it the first time.  The DVD set also has a Celebrity Roast that his co-stars/collaborators on the show throw for Pryor and it has the version that was aired on NBC and the version they did for ‘themselves’, if you know what I mean.

So should you see THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW?  That’s entirely up to you.  It all depends on how much you liked the man and his humor.  Personally, I think his genius lay in that he was and still is the best storyteller I have ever heard.  And the funniest.

God Bless You, Richard Pryor.  And thank you.