Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nighthawks Review - They Don't Make 'em Like They

I'm proud that my 3 year anniversary is going so smoothly. I expected some hassle in getting 3 reviews out this week, yet here we are. I had other posts ready for April, but I'll work those in as I'm able. I'm not sure if I'll post on Friday as well, especially since I'm looking forward to a packed, fun weekend - how can I stay calm when The Cabin in the Woods comes out tomorrow?

It might sound like a back-handed compliment, but 1981's Nighthawks feels like a fairly-cool 70's cop TV show. Great use of its NYC locations combines with neat action and strong leads to make an enjoyable flick. That is, an enjoyable flick that relies on the craze of terrorist incidents in the 1970's, which might kill it for you.

Nighthawks follows NYPD officers Deke DaSilva and Matthew Fox, played by Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams. Both men are hard-working police officers who stumble onto the trail of Wulfgar, a brilliant and vicious international terrorist (played by Rutger Hauer). The three men (and assorted cons and cops) stalk each other throughout the city as Wulfgar stages the attack to end all attacks.

Nighthawks is a solid action film. It uses quiet moments to develop the characters and to show how evenly matched both sides are. I also like the look into each sides' professional conflicts and office politics, as well as the prep work of Wulfgar's and DaSilva's team.

It's popular as well. If you ever hear anyone say "SHtalling" when they mean "stalling" (as in "for time"), they're referring to Rutger Haeur's villain in this role. It's random, I know, but memorable...

The entire picture is a little familiar, especially nowadays. So many of the chases and gambles are things that moviegoers have watched before or since. The mark of a decent action pic, then, is that it uses familiar material well. Seriously, not only is the central NYPD partnership reminiscent of a mellower version of Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, but some of the shots look too much like Donner's 1987 work.

Billy Dee is a little under-used, I think. Rutger Hauer portrays all the intensity and charisma in his Dutch bones; it's a crime his star didn't take off more, Stateside. And, for anyone who's grown tired of Stallone over the last two decades, let me tell you something: his first series of roles - F.I.S.T., Rocky, Nighthawks - all display a serious and versatile actor, which is not what you would expect from the Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot guy.

It's a fairly simple movie, but I love the look back at New York City 21 years ago. I also love that one entire sequence is built around the city's tram to Roosevelt Island. If you want to see an older action movie that shows you the hard work of bloodthirsty people - and the dangerous folks who must stop them - this is a perfectly good rental.

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