Plot: What’s it about?
After the success of the first two Rocky movies, Sylvester Stallone looked to break out from the character that made him famous and carve his own niche. The first Rocky movie brought him a few dramatic roles but with very little success. It was after Rocky II that he would come across a cat and mouse tale of two cops against an international terrorist. These two cops are not your average hawks on the street. They are the best, the nocturnal, they ar the Nighthawks.
A mysterious bearded man named Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) is causing havoc in Europe responsible for many terrorist acts. One night, one of his associates comes to see him unaware that cops are on his tail and looking to finally nail him, but the associate is shot as well as three of the cops. Little did he realize the associate had his photo in his pocket. At the same time, two cops in NYC (Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams) are wiping off crime at a steady rate and keeping the dirt off the streets. This goes well until their tranferred out of their division to a counter-terrorist division. It seems that Wulfgar had planned his escape from the authorities in Europe and is headed to New York to continue his reign of terror. With the assistance of an English investigator (Nigel Davenport), they’re learning the ways to let go of the badge and to get inside a terrorist’s head.
There is one thing that Stallone did prove after Rocky II. With the right material and with casting Gazzo from Rocky as his superior in this film, he can make a great movie. This is one cop thriller that from start to finish never lets up and leaves some room for some character development at the same time. Sly and Billy Dee Williams make a good team and show a cop chemistry that many films like this lack. Mostly these kind of cop thrillers always have the new partner and the entire movie is based on the struggle for that new partner’s acceptance. This is never the case in this film. It’s interesting to see Stallone with a full beard as well.
With the two heroes in place, the villain is deliciously charming and dangerous at the same time and no one played it better than Rutger Hauer. As Wulfgar, he has a charm to the ladies, wins them, uses them and in some cases, brings them to their doom as well as making room for making a terrorist dent to the press on how he’s bigger than everyone else. Underneath it all, he’s a dangerous cookie and one that never gets taken lightly.
The other thing that is not Stallone-like is the use of a catch phrase or a finish off line from the hero. If there are any, they are saved for Wulfgar and Hauer delivers it greatly and never cheeses out into anagonist cliches.
Overall, Nighthawks is a film that even today stands up better than most cop thrillers that rely on the couple of days to retirement and the new partner cliche. With those two out of the picture, this film makes for one of the best cop thrillers of the eighties even if it does have a seventies look and feel.
Video: How does it look?
Nighthawks was released a few years ago by Goodtimes full frame and the picture quality was decent and clear but with it’s share of grain and specks throughout. Recently, Universal cleaned up most of it in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (the first time in any medium for this film) and the results are better but not a drastic improvement as blacks still show a hint of grain and specks but they’re put to a minimum and are evident. The full frame version also ends with the black bars during the credits.
Audio: How does it sound?
There’s one thing both of those versions have in common. The sound is pretty much the same with the seventies/eighties muteness throughout the soundtrack leaving the middle with the majority of the sound for dialogue and effects without much of the rear channels used for effects. The Universal version slightly improves on this matter but for the most part, the track is similar and the Universal version gets crackily on the sound during the class with the English investigator. With the flaws with both they cancel each other out and come out the same. This disc also has English Subtitles
** Audio Note- The Goodtimes version retains two songs, one from the Rolling Stones and one from Keith Emerson during a pivotal scene and it worked wonderfully. In the Universal version, these two songs are removed and stock music is put in place of this lessening some of the effect of the scene that the original had. The two songs are not credited at the end of the Universal version.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The extras on the Goodtimes version include some production notes and the trailer. The Universal version has the trailer only. It’s a good non-spoiler look at the movie with a few alternate takes.
If you had asked me which one do I prefer, if you want the movie intact with no worries, find the Goodtimes version for there is not much change. If you want a cleaner wider anamorphic version but with an altered scene
find the Universal version.
Goodtimes keeps the movie intact while Universal widens the movie but takes away a key element during one scene that shows that music can be another key character in a film.