Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Hudson Hawk.”
The Movie: “Hudson Hawk”
Starring: Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell
Director: Michael Lehmann
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A cat burglar is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 31 percent
Brown: In this installment of the JOE-DOWN, I wanted to make Froemming cringe in so many ways.
See, not only does Froemming review movies with me on an irregular basis (since we have to pay bills and all), but he also reviews music with his friend Paul on “Rate That Album.”
After seeing Froemming and Paul review Bruce Willis’ “The Return of Bruno,” I figured it was only a matter of time before I made Froemming watch “Hudson Hawk.”
The only thing I knew about “Hudson Hawk” was that he crooned while stealing stuff. And, it also won the Razzie in 1991 for Worst Picture.
Little did I know that “Hudson Hawk” would be one of the most truly insane movies we’ve ever reviewed. This movie is a trainwreck, but in the best way possible. We’ll get into it.
Froemming, give us your first thoughts while I desperately seek out a cappuccino.
Froemming: Well, since we are back!
This movie, by the end, had me feeling like Old John Wick there.
So, when I was 10 years old, I remember my dad went to the theater to see this movie with a friend. And when he got home, it was the first time I ever saw him angry about watching a movie. He was seething, like I do when watching movies about magical pants. I remember him saying “that was the worst movie I have ever seen.”
I normally do not take my dad’s advice on what he considers bad movies, but he was raging like I had never seen him rage before, so I decided “probably good to skip that one.”
And that 30-year vow was broken when Joe Brown decided to make us watch it.
And I thought it was amazingly hammy and bonkers. It was way more entertaining than “Return of Bruno,” which is white guy blues music. A genre I hate with the rage of a million fiery suns.
Also, kind of bad timing picking one of Willis’ most panned films, Brown. Isn’t he going through enough already? Does he need us mocking a movie of his that I think was secretly directed by Tommy Wiseau?
Brown, as I sing the theme song to “Out of this World” as I commit felonies, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: We start “Hudson Hawk” by… making me think I rented the wrong movie.
For a movie that’s based around a cat burglar in the 1990s, the first, what, 10 minutes of this movie sends us to the 1500s.
I thought I rented a Harry Potter movie.
Froemming: With the storybook, I thought I accidentally rented “The Princess Bride.”
Brown: That should have been a sign of things to come, man.
Anyways, we follow around Leonardo da Vinci and see several of his notable inventions and works of art, including the real-life Mona Lisa that (according to this movie) had teeth as gnarly as Mileena from “Mortal Kombat.”
Froemming: A couple of things here.
- Had no idea da Vinci also invented Rube Goldberg contraptions along with everything else he invented.
- I think, based on this movie, he also created the album art for Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
- The opening credits told me Frank Stallone would be in this movie, and that almost broke my brain.
Joe Brown, you brilliant sunofabitch.
Brown: To be fair, I didn’t know Frank Stallone was in this. This my my reaction upon seeing his name in the credits:
Again, that should have been a sign of things to come, man.
Anyways, the main invention we saw in da Vinci’s lab was an alchemy machine that turned lead into gold. It worked by using, let’s be honest, MacGuffin crystals.
NOW, we go to present day and Hudson Hawk is being released from Sing-Sing after a 10-year stint for burglary. After being released, Hudson Hawk (his real name is Eddie Hawkins, but we’re not calling him that) meets up with Danny Aiello. Which means this movie has a connection with “The Godfather Part II.”
Froemming: He will always be the racist pizza shop owner in “Do the Right Thing” to me.
Now, on his way out of prison, his probation officer tries to get him to sign on to a heist, which tells me that guy has no idea what his job is. He is supposed to keep Hudson away from crimes, not getting him into them.
Now, I watched the first half of this movie in February and the second half in late March, because Brown and I are busy guys, so I am hazy on these first parts. But my notes say “What’s Nintendo? Brown is weeping” so I am guessing Nintendo was brought up and Brown probably cried.
Brown: I mean, that line made sense since he has been in prison for 10 years.
What blew my goddamn mind was when Hudson Hawk meets the Mario Brothers. And one of them is (REDACTED) Frank Stallone!
Froemming: I hope their names were Mario Mario and Luigi Mario. Also, I hope that “Super Mario Bros” DVD is still in the trunk of your car.
Brown: It’s in my apartment since I thought I was going to sell my car back in the fall.
When Frank Stallone was introduced as one of the Mario Brothers (unfortunately they are Cesar and Antony Mario), I was hoping they’d start doing the Mario with Captain Lou Albano.
Instead, Frank Stallone and co. threaten to kill Hudson Hawk and Tommy Five-Tone (Aiello) if they don’t do this robbery the parole officer brought up earlier.
So now, we’re a full-on robbery movie.
(Also weird to use that reference since the last time we reviewed a movie, it turns out Justin Roiland is a total asshat)
Froemming: Given how toxic some “Rick and Morty” fans are, I was not totally shocked.
So, our two good-time buddies have a wild way of robbing places. They stake it out, tight-rope across buildings and — sing songs. I feel a catburglar should be quiet, given that when robbing places one probably does not want to draw attention to themselves, but these two just belt out Bing Crosby songs. They use it to time shit out, but I feel a stop watch would be better in this situation.
Brown: Question: What would be the weirdest song to use to time out a sequence? I landed on either Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” (23 minutes, 31 seconds) or The Beatles’ “Revolution 9” (8:22).
Froemming: I think if I was robbing a place and timing out things to a song I was belting out loud, this would probably be the oddest choice I could make (4:18):
Brown: Before they pull this robbery, which is da Vinci’s marquette of the Sforza (a horse statue), Hudson and Tommy rig the camera system to rewind so they don’t show up over the course of a Bing Crosby song. I do appreciate this movie having the security guards catch onto this relatively early by seeing themselves on camera and seeing a previously broken chair in frame.
But, Hudson Hawk and Tommy do get away after jumping off a building onto an awning. New York City makes sturdy awnings because you see this used in pretty much every NYC-based movie.
Now, when Hudson brings the horse to his clients, a Salvador Dali-looking mother(REDACTED) named Alfred comes by, breaks the statue (revealing a MacGuffin crystal) and then slashes someone’s throat with a concealed blade straight out of “Assassin’s Creed.”
Froemming: And if this turn of events wasn’t strange enough, this place has a painting of dogs playing poker!
Brown: The people pulling the strings for ol’ Alfred here are the Mayflowers. And my GOD, Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard are just GOING FOR IT as Joel Schumacher “Batman”-style villains. Hell, I’d even posit that this movie is Bruce Willis’ audition to be Batman in a Schumacher “Batman” movie.
Froemming: Brown, you have been one of my best friends for more than 15 years. We’ve been through a lot in those years. Good times. Bad times. Road trips. But, I don’t think I can ever forgive you for making me watch a Sandra Bernhard movie.
This isn’t ‘Nam, Brown. There’s rules. Hell, she has one scene in an episode of “The Sopranos” and that set in my collection haunts me.
And you are right. They ham it up. Everyone hams it up, which makes this movie a lot of fun. The chemistry between Willis and Aiello is great. My only complaint is that it feels like six different movies all happening at once.
Brown: Oh yeah. Like I said before, this movie is a trainwreck. It’s objectively not a good movie.
It apparently has bad guys obsessed with candy bars, though. Because the next day, Hudson goes back to the scene of the crime because, allegedly, the real horse statue is being auctioned off. At the auction, Hudson hits it off with a young woman named Anna, played by an adorable Andie MacDowell. During this auction, there’s a bunch of Eurotrash (which eventually are revealed to be Americans but I stand by my initial description) and the Mayflowers. We don’t have to sanction their buffoonery for long as a bomb goes off in everyone’s face like they’re in “The Batman.”
And like “The Batman,” Hudson Hawk doesn’t die from the explosion. Hell, he survives taking a (REDACTED) marble horse to the face that fell from the roof.
He’s taken away by ambulance, which it turns out, has the Mario Brothers inside.
If I know anything about Mario Brothers and driving, this is going to end in shenanigans.
Well, I think one of the power-ups in this version of Mario Kart is throwing a tray of needles in an Italian man’s face.
This movie is surprisingly gruesome, Froemming.
Froemming: It is also very cartoonish, as Hawk makes his escape via ambulance stretcher on the Brooklyn Bridge. He zips along, has the exact change for the toll (not sure if he paid the troll toll or not) and somehow doesn’t die. I am not sure even The Highlander could survive such an experience. Even worse, this fun trip ends with him rolling right up to David Carouso, history’s greatest monster.
And this is when the movie becomes even more baffling. Everyone is a double agent, villains named after candy bars, the (REDACTED) CIA!?
Brown: They tranquilize Hudson, drop him in a trunk filled with packing peanuts and ship his ass to Rome. … Pretty sure he would have suffocated on that plane ride.
Hudson isn’t done stealing for the Mayflowers because now, they want da Vinci’s Codex. That is under extremely high security, including steel bars falling from the ceiling and gas.
Also, it turns out that Anna is here in Rome as well, leading a tour group. But, as it turns out, she’s trying to stop these robberies as a counter-espionage agent of the Vatican. She’s also a nun, which is gonna be super weird later when she’s making out with Hudson.
So yeah… pretty sure Anna is Illuminati.
Froemming: Trying to follow this plot is like Homer Simpson watching “Twin Peaks.”
Anna uses a weird hidden gizmo as a phone, Hudson tests the security by throwing a toy elephant to see the bars come down. My brain is hurting trying to make sense of any of this.
Oh, and we see Tommy with the Mayflowers. Because why the (REDACTED) not? This movie is literally throwing everything against a wall to see what sticks.
Brown: This movie is pretty convoluted for a heist movie, which is already a convoluted genre.
Using mirrors and a fishing rod (he got somehow?), Hudson steals the Codex. Also, there’s a security guard that eats spaghetti out of a Thermos because lol Italy?
Froemming: Almost like assuming anyone in waste management and Italian is somehow “connected.”
Brown: In the midst of this robbery, Hudson meets Anna for coffee. They end up back at her place where Hudson’s shirtless for reasons. They kiss, but that’s it.
The most upsetting part in this is from Butterfinger, the big, tough, stupid one of the candy bar CIA group. He’s looking up to the room with some binoculars and asks the leader, George Kaplan, “You want me to rape ‘em?”
Froemming: I honestly was hoping I misheard that line. Ooof.
Brown: Some solid ‘90s scripting there, my friend!
Froemming: We have Hudson hitting on a nun, which for the Catholic Church, is the least offensive thing I can imagine about them. He literally falls from the sky and lands at a restaurant with Anna, where he orders some ketchup for his pasta, which is something I brought up in our “Goodfellas” review when De Niro does it after killing a man who brought up a shine box in a bar to the wrong man.
I am beginning to think people in the late 1980s-early 1990s slathered pasta with ketchup and that not only hurts my brain, it makes me kind of nauseous.
Brown: Well, we as a country did elect a man who likes well-done steak with ketchup as our Commander-In-Chief. So America is full of monsters.
Trying to coerce Hudson into stealing a design of da Vinci’s helicopter for the final MacGuffin crystal, Tommy is brought in by the Mayflowers to convince Hudson to do it. This leads to a fight between the two where Tommy is shot in the streets of Rome. They are both carried away by ambulance… which then goes into a moving truck… Which then meets up with Anna. Tommy and Hudson faked the whole bit.
Froemming: This movie approaches plots like Kramer approaches his apartment:
Brown: Hudson tries unsuccessfully to hook up with the nun. So along with blue balls, he also gets tranquilized the next day by the candy bar brigade. They ended up stealing the helicopter and had no qualms about killing guards, which apparently Hudson has qualms about? Anyways, Anna is kidnapped by Butterfinger and Kaplan. Hudson and Tommy all survive by killing two candy bar agents via *checks notes* blowing them up with bombs.
… This movie goes from 0 to 50 harder than that bus from that one movie “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.”
Froemming: How do they foil this air-tight scenario to kill them? Why, they trip one guy and shoot a bomb to his head, and he comically cannot get it off. This movie suddenly became a Bugs Bunny cartoon. And you know what? I was all for it. The last half of this movie is basically “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” minus the cartoons.
Brown: It bears mentioning that a drugged-up Anna keeps making dolphin noises when she’s brought to the Mayflowers.
The whole movie, I kept thinking “wow, Andie MacDowell is gorgeous.” Then I heard her Flipper impersonation and now I don’t know what to think.
That is what you were thinking. That is what we ALL were thinking.
Brown: While Anna is going full Echo the Dolphin, the Mayflowers divulge their plan: They want to use da Vinci’s alchemy machine to get rich with gold and ruin the world’s economy as a result.
Froemming: I think the world does not need any help with that. When it comes to the economy, I am basically…
Brown: Armed with that bomb launcher they somehow got from Anna’s apartment, Hudson and Tommy lay waste to Leonardo da Vinci’s castle while singing Paul Anka’s “Side by Side.”
Froemming: I wish they would have sang Paul Anka’s “Black Hole Sun.”
Brown: I’m not clicking that link.
Also, I’m almost certain the wanton destruction of Leonardo da Vinci’s castle will result in more prison time than anything they stole up to this point.
It’s at this point where the movie reaches true lunacy.
- Hudson gets into a karate fight with Kaplan, who’s played by a 62-year-old James Coburn. I can’t find it on YouTube but I assure you, it’s bonkers.
- Sandra Bernhard unloads, like, six crossbow bolts into Butterfinger’s chest. I’d feel bad for the goon if he didn’t have that rape line from before.
- Sandra Bernhard also kills David Caruso, much to Froemming’s delight.
- Danny Aiello dies after their limo is bombed and drives off a cliff. I think Alfred was driving and jumped out before going off the cliff. In my head canon, the limo was driven by Toonces the Driving Cat.
The apex is when the Mayflowers fire up the alchemy machine after Hudson joins the crystal MacGuffins together. However, he left one piece off, which led to the Mayflowers’ deaths. Shit, Sandra Bernhard gets covered in molten lead, which, I dunno, seems pretty (REDACTED) metal.
Froemming: Well, Hudson then finds himself in a fight with Alfred (I think), but the man has concealed swords, tipping the scales in his favor. So Anna tries to help, only she keeps missing Alfred and shooting Hudson instead. I’ll admit it, that made me chuckle.
Brown: Hudson decapitates Alfred. And his one liner: “You won’t be attending that hat convention in July.”
Froemming: I don’t think there are hat conventions.
Then I chuckled even more when Anna decides to fight a dog and it turns into the rabbit scene from “Holy Grail.”
And not since Jack Black took out Ron Burgundy’s pup had I laughed at the misfortune of a pooch in a movie. Normally I hate when animals are hurt in movies, but this was wild.
Brown: I was (REDACTED) dying at that scene, dude. It’s breaking me thinking about it.
So Hudson and Anna are reunited. They kiss, and Hudson asks Anna to play Nintendo with him. Which is apparently a euphemism for sex in this movie? I wanna play Nintendo with Andie MacDowell. I bet I can beat “Super Mario Bros. 3” faster than her!
Brown: Also, she’s still a nun, Hudson. The only thing getting blown here is a Nintendo cartridge.
If that lunacy isn’t enough, Danny Aiello is still alive! He apparently survived a bomb and a free fall because of air bags and a sprinkler system in the back of the limo.
*Sigh* (REDACTED) you, movie. I said that loud enough that I’m pretty sure my neighbors all heard it.
Froemming, let’s get to recommendations before Bruce Willis starts singing songs from Pat Boone’s “In A Metal Mood.”
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yes! This movie is a total trainwreck, but in the best way possible. This is a good movie to watch in an altered state.
Froemming: Of course. This movie was insane! Like I said before, it is like six different movies happening at the same time.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN:
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