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There once was a cop in a dress
Who left criminals in a mess.
One terrorist came
With destruction his aim.
Who won? Well, I think you can guess.

MPAA rating: R (mainly for language and some violence)

I waited too long to review one of my VC’s movies last time, so I thought I’d squeeze a little one in before another month went by.  Nighthawks happens to be one of her favorite Sylvester Stallone films, and while that mainly has to do with Stallone’s rugged beard and mustache, it really is a well-made urban thriller with a great villain played by Rutger Hauer in his American debut.

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I wasn’t entirely surprised when I read that Nighthawks was originally intended for Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle but ultimately retooled for Stallone. His character of NYPD Detective Deke DaSilva is similarly gruff and uncompromising toward criminals, though he’s more reluctant to kill and more eager to dress in drag. (Where else are you going to see Stallone in a dress while beating up thieves?) He’s less than thrilled to be pulled from active duty to join a counter-terrorism unit, but he finds a worthy adversary when international terrorist Wulfgar (Hauer, in stellar psychotic killer mode) arrives to make his mark on New York City.

It’s interesting to note that Nighthawks’ focus on the ruthlessness of terrorism was a bit ahead of its time. The U.S. wasn’t used to the idea of terrorist attacks on American soil in 1981, so the plot was seen as vaguely implausible, though certainly not so now. Wulfgar’s motivations aren’t particularly specific, but he makes for a coldly calculating monster, especially in how Hauer manages to feign normal nice-guy behavior at times.

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Nighthawks isn’t the most memorable thriller, even among those from the ‘80s, but Hauer’s villainy and Stallone’s beard do help distinguish it. Due to aggressive editing, subplots like DaSilva’s estranged ex-wife fall by the wayside, but the plot still retains focus; and the ending boasts one of the great “gotcha” moments of the genre. The title may sound like one of those totally undescriptive names that was picked to sound cool (it’s actually a nickname for nighttime patrol cops), but I can see why my VC is fond of Nighthawks.

Best line:  (Pam, a woman Wulfgar is seducing) “Yes. What do you do for a living?”   (Wulfgar, sarcastically) “I’m an international terrorist wanted by the police in half the countries in Europe. And I am currently laying low for the moment.”   (Pam) “Oh, sure!”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2018 S.G. Liput
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