The Film (4.5/5)
An international terrorist known as “Wulfgar” (Rutger Hauer), makes his way to New York City after bombing many random locations in London and Paris. He now dawns a new face thanks to plastic surgery, and is planning to wreck some chaos in the States and win national news coverage. Anti-terrorist expert Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport) is hot on Wulfgar’s trail and recruits a tactic force of Policemen who happen to also serve in the military. Reluctant cop Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) is against the idea of using extreme force to justify catching the terrorist, but all bets are off Once Wulfgar opens fire in a disco and knifes DaSilva’s partner Fox (Billy Dee Williams).
NIGHTHAWKS (1981) is a very unusual movie that ultimately turned into a star vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. Based on interviews also found on this disc, the movie was originally more of a realistic terrorist thriller. It then turned into more a more focused cop movie, with the Wulfgar character being toned down and having subplots deleted. To make matters even more confusing, the picture was edited down with deleted violence, but also a good chunk of the cop’s emotional range and nearly removing the wife he has. So, it’s a miracle the finished movie isn’t a disaster after all the troubles during production. In fact, the movie is near brilliant.
NIGHTHAWKS is filled with style and handsome production valves, while still carrying some of the dark sleaze of the 1970’s. The pace is lean and fast, without wasting any time on the globe hopping drama. The first half is slower, but once the disco tech shoot out and chase happens, the action is constant with some gritty violence and plenty of sweaty atmosphere. The action scenes themselves are quickly edited and pack a real punch. The main chase in the subway station is highly suspenseful with quick cuts that never lose the viewer. As for the camerawork, it’s highly impressive without being showy. There’s plenty of smooth zooms, long shots and some pretty dangerous perspective shots. While parts of the ending are silly, it’s a tour de force of rack focus and swift movements. The toe tapping soundtrack by Keith Emerson is disco rock gold. It quickly gets stuck in your head, even if some of the songs don’t make the onscreen action or are just wildly misplaced.
On the acting side of things, Sylvester Stallone (ROCKY, FIRST BLOOD) gives one of his best understated performances with still going a little over the top. It’s a pretty serious part and one of his last greats before changing his screen image into an unstoppable action hero with RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2. The beard and dark yellow glasses give him the perfect serious cop look, and it just goes to show good an actor he is. This movie marked the American film debut of Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER), who despite his toned-down park, still shines in every scene he is in. He has a nonstop intensity that gives off menace and plenty of sweat. One of the most underrated villain parts of the 1980’s. Billy Dee Williams (EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) is sadly not given much to do, other than being Stallone’s partner, but there’s a few choice highlights. The biggest being his break down during a drug bust and freezing when he spots a child. Nigel Davenport (Dan Curtis’ DRACULA) classes up what could be a nothing part and spends every moment showing his intense glair. Lindsay Wagner (tv’s The Bionic Woman) is given next to nothing to do in the movie, and it’s a shame most of her scenes were cut. Persis Khambatta (STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE) and Joe Spinell (STAR CRASH) are both under used actors who both deliver here.
Audio/ Video (4.5/5)
NIGHTHAWKS comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound mix is about 75% excellent, while some scenes in the movie have a noticeable drop off or a sudden loud sound effect. As for the actual sound, dialogue is clearly heard with no issues. The rest of the sound effects work is sharp and shows an impressive range. The Soundtrack by Keith Emerson sounds wonderful and even the groovetastic main theme can be heard on the Main menu. English subtitles are included.
The 1080p HD transfer is simply gorgeous to look at. The colors are balanced without being too dark. The amount on detail on screen is impressive. The picture is spotless and you can clearly pick out the textures on clothes or count the drops of sweat off Hauer’s face.
Shout has given this movie the deluxe treatment with extras. The main attraction is a series of in-depth interview with key members of this unusual production, both for the finished film, and the troublesome start of production. First up is Lights Camera Action! an interview with producer Herb Nanas. Next is We Gotta Shoot This, an interview with director of Photography James Contner. Contner discusses the look of the movie, some of his favorite scenes, Stallone’s behavior on set, and some of the more dangerous stunts in the film. A Sign of the Times is an interview with actress Lindsay Wagner. Wagner fondly remembers the movie, with exception of her best scenes and parts of her performances trimmed out of the finished cut. Not the Other Girls, is a quick interview with actress Catherine Mary Stewart, who talks about getting her role after finishing the Cannon musical THE APPLE. Nighthawks the First Draft, is an interview with screenwriter Paul Sylbert. Sylbert discusses his original involvement with the movie and his radically different first draft of the movie. He also discusses his research on real-life terrorist Carlos the Jackal and trying to use him as the film’s villain. It was Hell, is an interview with Police technical advisor Randy Jurgensen. He goes into maddening detail about being almost fired and ultimately quitting the film and his thoughts on the movie. The original theatrical trailer is included as well as the radio spots and a still gallery.
Despite its troubled production, and script changes, NIGHTHAWKS remains a damn fine thriller. Stallone shines in his role and Hauer makes an impressive US debut with one of the most charismatic villains of the 1980’s. Shout Selects Blu-ray has a very handsome transfer with lots of great extras. Highly Recommended.