Nighthawks is an
early-80s cop thriller starring Sylvester Stallone. The plot is about a pair of
New York undercover cops (Stallone and Lando Calrissian) who are enlisted to
help stop the rogue terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer). It's an interesting film
as a time capsule piece on how the threat of terrorism was dramatized in the
What I found most interesting, however, is the amount of focus placed on the impotence of the Stallone character. Most action heroes are men/women of action; Stallone's Deke DaSilva spends the whole movie pretty much just passively reacting and is unable to take the shot that would kill Wulfgar – he says he didn't get into the police business to kill people. Add to this the fact that his wife has left him because he didn't pay her enough attention; he has nerdy glasses and a nerdy beard; he begins and ends the film in women's clothing; and he spends much of the rest of the film wearing cardigans and tank tops. (Stallone never strips down to show off the physique on which he built his career.) Before becoming a cop, we learn that DaSilva had been a Vietnam war hero with 52 kills to his name, suggesting that that experience had totally scarred him ... and making DaSilva an interesting precursor to John Rambo, who Stallone would play the following year in First Blood.
I often think that action thrillers these days are filled pretty boys pretending to be larger than life heroes: Ben Affleck, Keanu Reeves, Will Smith, Paul Walker, Maaaatt Daaaamon. There doesn't seem to be many, or any, leading men left who have the weight of experience or the presence of tough guy actors like Lee Marvin, Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Warren Oates, or even Stallone. The narratives that have been built up around these older actors in the popular consciousness is that they were Real Men, symbols of American brawn and masculinity. But it's interesting how frequently they played broken, vulnerable, and impotent. Their cool factor, I guess, is that they each had a persona of being guys that had nothing to prove to anyone but themselves, which gave them room to explore and subvert American.
TVLN Movie Club -
Published May 8th, 2007 in Triple Venti Late Night, Movie Club
The Triple Venti Late Night Movie Club this week moves away from comedy and into Action films for the first time with Nighthawks. This film sports a very good cast, including the introduction of Rutger Hauer, Billie Dee Williams, Lindsey Wagner, and Sylvester Stallone.
While the scenery, clothing and music give this early 80’s film an obviously dated look, the story is probably every bit as relevant today as it was then (perhaps even more so), with the theme of a terrorist loose in New York City.
Deke DaSilva (Stallone), and his partner and Matthew Fox (Williams) are brought in to an elite anti-terrorist task force and assigned with hunting down the international terrorist Wulfgar (Hauer).
For fans of seeing things blown up, there is plenty of that. For intensity, there is an awesome scene in the movie where Wulfgar, takes hostages on the Roosevelt Island Tramway.
It always struck me as odd, that this film did not become more widely popular. Was it because by 1981 it was already in vogue to trash anything Stallone did, even if it was a good film? Was it because there isn’t the silly comedic side to it (ala Lethal Weapon) to ease the tension of the film? It certainly had everything else, and was far more intense in character development, as DaSilva tries to get “in the head” of Wulfgar. If you can believe Alan Rickman as an international terrorist (Die Hard), then you should be blown away (pun only slightly intended) by Hauer’s debut performance.