Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams star in NIGHTHAWKS, directed by Bruce Malmuth for Universal Pictures.

Nighthawks (1981, Bruce Malmuth)

Catherine Mary Stewart’s British? She’s in Nighthawks for a second and she looked familiar but I don’t keep track of her filmography, so I didn’t find out until the end credits. (Actually, she’s Canadian, which is closer than I thought). Besides that trivia tidbit–if it even qualifies as a tidbit–the most amusing thing about Nighthawks is the name of the good guy’s anti-terrorism task force (A.T.A.C., get it?). They wear navy blue jumpsuits and have caps. Their headquarters is a huge garage. Maybe a warehouse.

Nighthawks is amusing in its stupidity, but only to a certain point. The film doesn’t seem to appreciate its awfulness. It’s ludicrously written, at least with Stallone and Billy Dee Williams as the cops. The Rutger Hauer scenes are a little bit better (most of the film is all Hauer, which is fine). When Nigel Davenport shows up at the beginning, I remember hoping he would only be in it for a cameo, but then he comes back in and is terrible for more. Oh, and Joe Spinell is terrible. I almost forgot about him.

Besides the script, which is incompetent, the film’s director, Bruce Malmuth, is bad in the most uninteresting ways. He can’t create a mood, can’t direct actors, can’t compose shots. Stallone’s got a few good scenes, actually, but the stuff between him and Williams range in quality. A few times, you can see Stallone trying to get more screen time and it doesn’t really work for the characters, who are apparently friends (though it’s hard to know; Nighthawks doesn’t have much in the way of backstory–it’s all exposition getting toward the final scene). When it finally does get to be Stallone’s turn, when he really does have to do really well… he fails, but it’s not like it was going to turn Nighthawks around. It was going to be terrible–the scene itself terrible too–no matter what.

I can’t forget to say something about the extraordinary score–Keith Emerson doesn’t get how to score a movie. Whatsoever. Nighthawks probably wouldn’t have been any better with a real score, but at least it wouldn’t induce laughter….

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bruce Malmuth; screenplay by David Shaber, based on a story by Shaber and Paul Sylbert; director of photography, James A. Contner; edited by Stanford C. Allen and Christopher Holmes; music by Keith Emerson; production designer, Peter S. Larkin; produced by Herb Nanas and Martin Poll; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Det. Sgt. Deke DaSilva), Billy Dee Williams (Det. Sgt. Matthew Fox), Lindsay Wagner (Irene), Persis Khambatta (Shakka Holland), Nigel Davenport (Peter Hartman), Rutger Hauer (Wulfgar), Hilary Thompson (Pam) and Joe Spinell (Lt. Munafo).

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