HOW much longer are film audiences to endure the tall, silent figure of Sylvester Stallone looming across New York in an endless repetition of the tough-guy-with-a-soft-spot role? Nighthawks, a meaningless jumble of The French Connection. Serpico and The Supercops, gives us the Italian Stallion in yet another variation on the theme, but without the wrenching brutality of Rocky, et al. We are left wondering from where the continuous fascination with Stallone arises.
The best thing that can be said about Nighthawks is that it's short. Imagine Billy Dee Williams as Sergeant Fox and Sylvester Stallone as Sergeant DaSilva roaming the streets of the Bronx and combing Central Park, as decoy cops in a simpleminded parody of The Supercops and Serpico. We are to believe that the greatest service a policeman can do to stifle crime must be done while he wears a dress. As this dashing duo heroically traipses past Third Avenue, the scene shifts to London, where Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer). The Villian, has just blown up a department store. "There is no security," he rasps to UPI over the phone.
His cover blown. Wulfgar must flee to Paris, where he undergoes plastic surgery. ("I want to be beautiful," he growls). He emerges blond and Aryan, the very stereotypic image of the international terrorist. He and his "ruthless" sidekick Shakka--Persis Khambatta, with more hair and less of a role than when last seen in Star Trck--go to New York. Wulfgar is determined to redeem himself in the eyes of the International Underworld by committing spectacular and death-defving acts of terrorism, with full media coverage. While Wulfgar blows up Wall St., Fox and DaSilva are indoctrinated in "Counterterrorist techniques" by Hartmann (Nigel Davenport), an Interpol detective hot on Wulfgar's trail.
There is little dialogue, and what little there is is trite. "We may not get out of this alive," says Wulfgar, in what is meant to be a tender yet nonchalant tone, while he and Shakka hold 25 people hostage. "It does not matter!" snaps Shakka. Moving it ain't. Characterization is indicated mainly by silent stares--DaSilva--or wildly darting eyes--Wulfgar. In DaSilva's great moment of fraternal passion, he leans over Fox's bleeding body, shouting after Wulfgar. "I'm gonna fucking get you. You're fucking dead," Salinger would appreciate it.
Director Bruce Malmuth makes good use of his sites. Unnecesary as the footage of London and Paris is, it is nonetheless entertaining. It adds credibility to the film's claim of International terror. Malmuth works best on the streets of New York. For many of us, Nighthawks is the closest we will ever get to dancing at Xenon's or the inside of the subway construction on 63rd Street. He tends to film at night, filling the screen with a plethora of flashing colored lights or flickering blue sparks. But there are too many chase scenes, through New York subways--shades of The French Connection--along dark, deserted streets, in tunnels and across fire escapes. How many times can you see Stallone dashing across the screen before you are tempted to shout, out of sheer frustration. "Okay, so he has kept in shape since Rocky II?"
Nighthawks boils down to just another cop-cum-chase scene thriller, with little action, less plot, and no originality. It is a pity that the film was released now: it might have made good drive-in fare. At last, we see the truth about the Italian Stallion: Rocky was a fluke, a rough-cut diamond of a film. By Stallone's inability to break out of the mold of the illiterate boxer, we perceive that the man cannot act any role but that of Sylvester Stallone. He is doomed to be the matinee idol, the star of B-movies like Nighthawks or, God forbid, Rocky III. He is just another fighter who put too much into his first match.
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