Hudson Hawk (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|I'm not sure which film has lost the most
money in the history of cinema, but this one has to be a
serious contender. Made in 1991 for a monstrous budget,
filmed across the continents, it maxed out at $17 million
at the box office, despite the fact that Bruce Willis was
then at the height of his popularity, and he not only
starred in the film but also wrote the storyline and the
lyrics to the theme song.
The opening week was a tough time for all, when the director basically denied any credit or blame for the film, and pointed the fickle finger of responsibility at Willis. (I wonder what he would have done if critics and the box office had declared it a winner.)
Willis was a NY bartender back in 1980 when he struck up a friendship with Robert Kraft, who headed up a Greenwich Village jazz-blues band and shared Willis' sense of humor and musical tastes. Kraft played Willis his song called "Hudson Hawk", about a fierce wind that blew off the Hudson River. Inspired by his buddy, Willis dashed off some lyrics to the song, turning it into a ballad of the cat burglar Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins and his friend Tommy "Five Tone" Messina.
Ten years later, when Willis could write his own ticket in Hollywood, this was the $65 million ticket he chose to write.
It is an exceptionally odd film. It's not a realistic espionage/adventure story, nor a traditional comedy, but a post-modern absurdist comedy. The film baffled most moviegoers. It's probably not a coincidence that it co-starred James Coburn, because the most similar movies are probably Coburn's comedies from the late 60's, like the Flint movies and The President's Analyst, by way of the classic British series, The Avengers, and with more than a little debt to the classic Warner Brothers cartoons
Audiences were expected to accept a lot from this film in the name of humor. Some examples of the type of humor in the plot to recreate Leonardo DaVinci's method to transmute lead into gold:
|The moments I described above are not really uncharacteristic moments, or highlight moments, just typical examples of the events that transpire in the film's surrealistic world. If you think that sounds like your kind of humor, you'll see hundreds more gags similar to those. This is the one film to see if you think that CIA should employ professional mimes, that they should name them after candy bars, and that David Caruso should play them on screen.||
plot: Willis is the world's greatest burglar. After his
parole, he is conscripted into a massive conspiracy to
steal three priceless Leonardo works, not for their
intrinsic value but because between them they contain the
secret to the Philosopher's Stone, the long-sought Holy
Grail of alchemy, which will allow lead to be converted
into gold. The plot doesn't make that much difference.
It's just a backdrop for the outrageous set pieces within
The marketing for this film must have been impossible.
I suppose they must have had fun filming the movie. Willis' crazy gurney ride across the Brooklyn Bridge took an entire week to film, and they spent two more weeks in New York. They also filmed in London (the underground postal railroad), Rome, Budapest, and Los Angeles.
|The lavish filming
schedule may have involved too much budget and star ego,
and I'll freely admit that parts of it are on a humor
level that Larry and Curly would find lowbrow, and I'll
concede that some of the deliberately over-the-top
sequences are a little too far over that mythical top.
But if you think some of the gags are at a third grade
level, so what? By the time you can articulate a
complaint, the film will have thrown five more gags at
you, and maybe you'll like those better.
This is a film that is reviled by many for its pointless nonsense, and treasured by others for the very same reason. Your likelihood of enjoying the film will depend on your own attitude toward pointless crap.
Personally, I kinda like it.
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