In Hollywood Homicide, Sgt. Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and Det. K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) try to solve the murder of a hip-hop group while pursuing outside interests in real estate, yoga and theater. In Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis joins with a spying nun (Andie MacDowell) to fight a kinky couple (Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernard) who want to ruin the world’s economy. Two Hollywood crime comedies that underperformed at the box office, Hollywood Homicide falls apart under the weight of too many subplots, not enough laughter and weak performances, while Hudson Hawk delivers a solid stream of laughs to compensate for—or perhaps complement—its absurd plot. Both look good, though Hudson Hawk’s sound is in mono and both films lose their extras from their respective DVDs.
Distributed By: Mill Creek
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 2.0 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min./1 Hr. 40 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray keepcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/26/2013
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
In the year 2000, Joe Roth left his lucrative position as studio head of Walt Disney Pictures to form Revolution Studios. However, in its seven years as an active film production company, it didn’t seem to cause much of a revolution in Hollywood in terms of changing the way it does business.
LAPD Sgt. Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) has a second job as a realtor, while his younger partner, Det. K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett), makes a decent living as a yoga instructor. But Calden also wants to be an actor, which Gavilan thinks is silly, even though he ends up dating a psychic named Ruby (Lena Olin). While investigating the murder of a rap group known as H2OClick, K.C. tries to open Joe’s mind to the possibilities of yoga while he rehearses for a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. An undercover cop (Lou Diamond Philips) tells Gavilan that K-Roc (Kurupt), the group’s songwriter, has disappeared. Gavilan tracks him down and asks his mother (Gladys Knight), a former Motown singer, leads them to question whether it was the group’s manager, Antoine Sartain (Isaiah Washington), who actually killed them. Meanwhile, Lt. Bernie Macko (Bruce Greenwood), who holds a grudge against Gavilan, is setting him and Calden up for a corruption charge.
With this film, Ron Shelton, best known the sports-themed Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Cobb and Tin Cup, has tried something different: a buddy cop film that tries to mix hip-hop and yoga. He has not directed a film since. His direction was adequate, but it needed to be better than that to make it work. Pruning some dead weight might have helped. Shelton’s script, co-written with Robert Souza, the LAPD detective whose life story inspired it, goes in too many directions by bogging down the story with subplots, adding nothing in the mix to tie it all together. The effect isn’t as much thrilling as it is confusing. As a character-based piece, there are too many characters and none of them are interesting enough to justify their appearance. While the cast sounds good on paper, none of their participants seem to have their hearts in it, outside of Martin Landau’s well-done supporting role as a legendary producer. Perhaps a more dynamic second banana than Josh Hartnett could have helped. His flat line readings don’t serve the comic material especially well. The film does have some bright spots, most of them in the form of cameos ranging from Eric Idle to Frank Sinatra, Jr. to Master P to Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson. But it doesn’t do enough with them.
Up against the likes of The Matrix Reloaded, Finding Nemo, Bruce Almighty and 2 Fast 2 Furious, the $75,000,000 film only grossed $51,142,659 worldwide; only $15,632,633 of it came from the United States. Even The Lizzie McGuire Movie outgrossed it. Critics had few nice things to say about it, and it wasn’t nominated for anything, not even a Razzie.
If you thought complaints about the escalating costs of Hollywood movies are something new, think again. In late 1982, a few months after The Coca-Cola Company bought Columbia Pictures, they looked for a way to reduce the ever-increasing financial risk of making movies, so they joined forces with CBS and HBO to form TriStar Pictures. The studio, which used Pegasus as its mascot, released its first films in 1984: among them were The Natural, The Muppets Take Manhattan and Places in the Heart, all of which made money. But under Coke’s ownership, budgets did not stay under control at either Columbia or TriStar, and for every Ghostbusters, there was a Leonard Part 6 or an Ishtar. Meanwhile, Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam’s short-lived reign as head of the studio in the mid-1980s soured Coca-Cola on Hollywood; his disdain for big-budget commercial blockbusters did not endear him to the show business establishment. By 1989, Coca-Cola had sold all its entertainment holdings to Sony. Under Peter Guber and Jon Peters’ leadership, they just threw caution to the wind where money was concerned. One project rumored to have cost as much as $65,000,000 was Hudson Hawk, a joke-driven action comedy that became the butt of jokes about Hollywood budgetary excess.
Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins (Bruce Willis), is a smooth-talking, music-loving ex-cat burglar who, after serving 10 years in Sing Sing, wants to celebrate his newfound departure on the straight and narrow path with a cappuccino. But first, his parole officer, Gates (Burtt Harris), pressures him to pull one last art theft: the Sforza, a horse maquette sculpted by Leonardo DaVinci as part of a machine he built to turn lead into gold. Then, after meeting up with Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina (Danny Aiello), his partner in crime, he heads for his favorite bar and finds himself dealing with the Mario Brothers, Cesar (Frank Stallone) and Antony (Carmine Zozorra), who are working with Gates to pressure him to pull off the museum job. After Hawk and Tony give in and steal the horse, they end up in the Mario Brothers’ house where they witness a butler named Alfred (Donald Burton) slashing Gates’ throat. The next morning, they find a newspaper headline saying a guard foiled the robbery. When Hawk goes to the auction, he meets Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell), a counter-spy for the Vatican. In order to cover up the theft, she verifies the authenticity of the fake Sforza, when eccentric tycoon Darwin Mayflower (Richard E. Grant) and his wife Minerva (Sandra Bernhard). After the gavel explodes, killing the auctioneer, Hawk survives and saves Anna’s life, while the Mario brothers, posing as EMTs, knock him out with a winged horse—was this a slam at the production company?—and take him into their ambulance, but he escapes. His gurney rolls under a bridge in a seedier part of town where he meets four CIA agents (David Caruso, Andrew Bryniarski, Lorraine Toussaint, Don Harvey) and George Kaplan (James Coburn), the agency head who had Hawk sent to jail in the first place. Apparently, it was Kaplan who recognized his abilities and recommended him to the Vatican. The agents knock Hawk out and ship him to Rome, home of the headquarters of Mayflower Industries, owned by the same couple that bought the fake Sforza. Alfred the butler works for them, too. From here on out, Hawk must get the girl, the Da Vinci Codex, and a cappuccino while keeping the Mayflowers from carrying out their evil scheme to ruin the world’s economy with their fake gold.
One has to feel sorry for Bruce Willis for having been associated with two of Hollywood’s biggest “get-the-knives-out” flops of the early 1990s; The Bonfire of the Vanities the preceding year was the other. When even Tiny Toon Adventures makes fun of you, you’re screwed. But this isn’t his worst film by a long shot—trust me on this; I’ve seen North—just one of his most peculiar. Based on an idea he’d had floating around in his head for 12 years before this, Hudson Hawk is a romantic action musical comedy spy fantasy so bizarre and convoluted, one has to think they did it this way on purpose. Considering that the film opens with a parody of The Princess Bride narrated by William Conrad in a nod to Rocky and Bullwinkle, Sandra Bernhard is playing a femme fatale, the mobsters are named after Nintendo characters, and James Coburn, perfectly cast as an obvious reference to his legendary role as Derek Flint in two 1960s spy movies (and with a character name even more obviously borrowed from North by Northwest), quotes a Carpenters song, you would think it was. But Richard E. Grant’s autobiography, With Nails, says the script was being rewritten practically every day; ironically, Olivia Newton-John has said the same about Xanadu, which spawned one of the many pop singles whose running times Hawk can recall instantly. As an attempt to create an absurdist live-action cartoon, it works in spite of every step of how it got to that state.
Like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Willis’s personality carries the film from start to finish. He throws off a string of bizarre non-sequiturs, one-liners and groaners with such cocky bravado—a hilarious goof on the persona he developed on Moonlighting and in the Die Hard films—you can almost forgive how silly the plot is. Danny Aiello is well-cast as Tommy, while Andie MacDowell, an actress who is only as good as the material she has to work with, is an affable love interest, but not believable as an Italian nun. The film devotes only minimal attention to establish their relationship. Apparently, she got the role because Isabella Rossellini and Maruschka Detmers had to bow out. Sandra Bernhard, decked to the nines in a garish dress fit for a drag tribute to Disney villains, delivers her lines with a monotonous sneer that calls to mind some of John Waters’ early films. Director Michael Lehmann, who got the job on the strength of his darker-than-dark teen comedy Heathers two years earlier, does seem to have a good handle on the visuals (Jack DeGovia, the production designer, didn’t disappoint there), but some of the editing is off-kilter. There’s a scene where Hudson is supposed to fall down, but the background in one shot doesn’t match the next one. The gags fly fast and free, but for all those that stick, some are just forced. Anna’s schizophrenia is revealed rather late in the plot to seem credible; perhaps she snapped trying to figure out the plot’s machinations. That just adds to the fun of trying to figure it all out.
Despite the obligatory all-out ad campaign touting it as another Die Hard-style action blockbuster, Hudson Hawk died very hard upon its arrival. Audiences couldn’t make hide nor hair of the film’s plot any more than critics could, while a New York Times article detailing the cost overruns didn’t help the film’s reputation. All it could muster was $17,218,080 at the box office. Partly because of its commercial failure, Sony merged TriStar with Columbia. The final insult came when the Golden Raspberry Awards gave it Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Director, putting Lehmann in the company of such luminaries as Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Blake Edwards, Brian DePalma and William Friedkin. But while Bruce Willis’s career bounced back and Andie MacDowell had Groundhog Day going for her two years later, Lehmann’s career never reached the heights it might otherwise have had this film done better. Nevertheless, the film’s outlandish charms seem more apparent 20 years after the dust has settled.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Shot in Panavision, the 2.35:1, AVC-encoded transfer is razor-sharp, features rich, warm saturated colors, mild grain and strong contrast with no video noise or compression problems.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this transfer represents the film’s early 1990s aesthetic accurately. Film grain is left in where it exists, and the color saturation and contrast are about average, serving the film’s subtly colorful visual palette effectively. The picture is so sharp, you can almost count Bruce Willis’s eyelashes.
Audio Rating: 2.5/5
The film’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue with a good balance of frequencies, especially where the music is concerned. But the action scenes lack a strong surround presence.
The film’s soundtrack is presented as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track; it was Dolby SR originally. While it claims to be in stereo, I listened to it through headphones and through the speakers on every setting. It’s mono. Someone made a goof, but was it Sony or Mill Creek?
There are no extras. Hollywood Homicide had several extras on its sole DVD release after the film came out, while Hudson Hawk got some very decent extras on its last DVD release. I guess they were jettisoned to make both movies fit on one disc.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Part of the first wave of Sony-owned titles released by Mill Creek, Hollywood Homicide is a standard-issue buddy cop comedy bogged down by a flat supporting performance by Josh Hartnett, while Hudson Hawk plays much better now than it seemed to two decades ago. Both films sport fine picture, but Hudson Hawk inexplicably has mono audio, and both films lose their extras.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: MatthewA
Support HTF when you buy this title:
Click here to view the review