Forgotten Flix

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Peter’s Retro Rewind: Night Hawks (1981)

Nighthawks Movie Poster by Peter Nielsen

Memory is a funny thing, wouldn’t you agree?

And I don’t mean the children’s game where you’re supposed to find pairs among scattered picture cards on a table. No, I mean memories stored inside that weird and wonderful thing called your brain. And this being a site about movies, I’m talking movie-related memories, of course. Sometimes I look at a title and have a hard time remembering if I’ve actually seen it or not. Or if I’ve seen all of it or only little snippets… and with other titles you can even remember what kind of candy you ate.

Nighthawks from 1981 is one of those titles!

Usually you have the mandatory bowl of popcorn and the stuff you always buy, but this time was different. I watched this one at “Folkan”, our local theater, which come to think of it, didn’t have a popcorn-machine! It had a vending-machine with candy though, but that was it. I’ve mentioned this theater in earlier reviews, mainly in High Road to China, but also in The Sword and the Sorcerer for instance, and also the fact that it closed down many years ago. Yeah, sure the seats were a bit on the hard side and the gentleman who ran it was kind of strict, but DAMN I miss that place.

It's time to get schooled!

It’s time to get schooled!

I miss having a local theater and the fact that, with where we live at the moment, it would have taken less than five minutes to walk there! As kids we were there as often as we could and were allowed to by our parents. They were, after all, the ones paying for it. I suppose they figured that since they allowed us to go they at least knew where we were and tickets didn’t cost nearly as much then, as they do now, either. So having a local movie theater was kind of like a small blessing I wish my kids could have experienced. But I digress!

I was here to talk about Nighthawks, wasn’t I, so here goes…

Deke DaSilva and Matthew Fox are two New York City police detectives working undercover to rid the streets of the low-life scum. You know… the muggers, thieves, drug-dealers and whatnot. They’re hard-hitting, no-nonsense taking cops who are very good at what they do. This is one of the reasons they’re chosen by a British counter-terrorist specialist, Peter Hartman, to join a special anti-terrorist unit being put together by Interpol.

Stop, or my Lando will shoot!

Stop! Or my Lando will shoot!

Their background as soldiers in Vietnam is another. Together with the rest in the selected team they’re schooled about terrorism and how to effectively find and take them out. At first DaSilva isn’t too keen on this, as he feels the whole “shoot-to-kill” policy goes against why he became a cop in the first place… to uphold the law and save lives.

Their target is a known international terrorist by the name of Wulfgar who, at the start of the movie, blows up a large department store in London. His financier isn’t too happy about this because there were a lot of children killed in the bombing and he decides to with-hold Wulfgar’s money. At a party a day or two later, Wulfgar meets with his contact who tells him about this. Unfortunately the police have followed the contact and, in a rage, Wulfgar shoots him and also the police officers.

As it turns out, killing his contact wasn’t a good idea since he had Wulfgar’s new passport in one of his pockets and now the authorities know his face. Wulfgar has no choice but to alter his looks and flee the continent. Upon his arrival in New York, he wastes no time and immediately “sets up shop” to kind of redeem himself to his former associates.

Wulfgar is a ruthless man and is completely devoid of any conscience. He’s brilliantly played by one of my favorite actors, namely Rutger Hauer. He’s been in a ton of stuff, Hobo with a Shotgun, Wanted: Dead or Alive and Blind Fury for instance, but Nighthawks was his first American feature film. He also appeared in a short movie called The Rhapsody (2008) where, incidentally, my good friend Patrik Thelander did the cinematography… Small world, huh?

Hostage-situation on-board the Roosevelt Island tram.

Hostage-situation on-board the Roosevelt Island tram.

The rest of the cast isn’t bad either! The British specialist, Hartman, is played by Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire, Without a Clue) and DaSilva’s ex-wife Irene, is played by the bionic woman herself, Lindsay Wagner.

Deke DaSilva (love that name) is played by Sylvester Stallone, an actor who actually needs no further introduction, wouldn’t you agree? He makes one of his better performances in this one and to top it all, he looks damn cool too. That beard is friggin’ awesome! His partner, Matthew Fox, is played by an equally great Billy Dee Williams. He’s known as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but he was also in Batman and Number One With A Bullet to name a few.

I also have to mention Joe Spinell as Lieutenant Munafo. He’s almost infamous for his role as Frank Zito in Maniac, but he’s also been in Starcrash and the two first Godfather-movies. Nighthawks was his last movie working with Mr. Stallone. They had previously appeared in Rocky, Rocky II and Paradise Alley together. Lastly I’d briefly like to mention two other recognizable faces… In a small role as a designer, some of you might recognize the porn-actor Jamie Gillis, who passed away in 2010. And, at the very start of the movie, as a sales girl in the London department store, we see the lovely Ms. Catherine Mary Stewart.

Wulfgar threatening an old lady. You know, 'cause he can!

Wulfgar threatening an old lady. You know, ’cause he can!

I really, really like this movie! It’s a dark and taut action-thriller that feels… well, “real” for lack of a better word, and I know that because of the terrorist-plot and some of the grander scenes, “realism” might be stretching it a little bit, but still. It’s hard to describe what I mean, but it’s something that many of these cop-thrillers from the late 70’s  and early 80’s had… a sort of gritty realism that’s lacking in the same type of movies of today.

Nighthawks is actually a pretty brutal movie and the ending was a bloody one and I say was, because the studio trimmed it down and it’s now painfully obvious that there’s something missing. Not surprisingly, the Swedish censors cut it down even further. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you really should and not just because it’s one of Sylvester Stallone’s better outings, but because it’s a damn good movie!

Oh, and by the way? The candy I had at the theater while watching it for the first time was some homemade chocolate-candy. I suppose the reason for me remembering that, was because of the fact that it was homemade.

And now it’s time for you to tell me what YOU thought about Nighthawks. Have you seen it? What did you think? Did you like it? The comment section below is all yours! Until next time, my friends…


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

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