Nighthawks (1981) starring Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, Lindsay Wagner, Persis Khambatta, Nigel Davenport, Hilary Thompson, Joe Spinell directed by Bruce Malmuth Movie Review

Nighthawks (1981)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams in Nighthawks (1981)

Stallone's DaSilva Fox

Ignoring the whole Serpico thing which Stallone has going on in "Nighthawks" it is actually quite a decent movie for its age. It is shall we say a bit of a run of the mill when it comes to the story as we have good cop against a terrorist leading to the less than surprising big action finale. But the thing which makes it good is that "Nighthawks" came before Stallone movies ended up bordering on the ridiculous with the focus on Stallone's muscles rather than anything else. so what we have in "Nighthawks" is Stallone actually acting, trying to deliver the emotion of his character rather than just flexing his biceps and whilst it's not great acting it is interesting.

Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone - Rocky II) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are two New York cops who are good at their job, fighting crime on the streets. But they are less than impressed when they are transferred to a specialist terrorist task force when it becomes known that the deadly terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer - The Poseidon Adventure) is in New York and looking to cause trouble. Forced to learn the ways of the terrorist, DaSilva struggles especially when he learns that he will have to kill him, but he manages to get into the mind of the terrorist and is the task forces best hope of stopping Wulfgar once and for all.

Rutger Hauer as Wulfgar in Nighthawks (1981)

It has to be said that the best part of "Nighthawks" is at the beginning where we witness a woman being mugged, but it is not as it appears as the woman is in fact DaSilva undercover. It is shall we say funny because of the fact it is Stallone in drag but at the same time it works well as the chase scene which follows with DaSilva and his partner Fox going after the mugger delivers a nice touch of action. Unfortunately it gets a little messy after that as we have scenes of DaSilva and Fox in New York dealing with crime in their own way whilst also flicking to London where we are introduced to Wulfgar the terrorist. These early scenes are not helped by what appears to be some dodgy post production dubbing with a shop assistant having a god awful English actress.

But these scenes are only there to introduce us to the main characters and what follows is DaSilva and Fox being assigned to a special task force put together to track down and kill Wulfgar especially as intelligence suggests he has arrived in New York. It has to be said it's not the most original storyline but it builds the elements quite nicely especially with DaSilva becoming frustrated that he has to spend time learning how a terrorist works rather than being out there doing what he does best. On top of this frustration you also have an element of DaSilva struggling with the order to kill Wulfgar as it would make him no better than the terrorist.

The thing is whilst these things add a little depth to the characters they don't stop "Nighthawks" being predictable. And as such things move towards an expected climax where DaSilva is one on one with Wulfgar, whilst also using subplots like DaSilva's ex wife to make it more than it is. As I said it is predictable and as plot devices are put in place throughout the movie, such as DaSilva's ex wife and his issues with killing someone you know they will all come to ahead come the end of the movie. But in its favour is the fact there are some nice twists, maybe not the most solid of twists and a whole scene around Wulfgar having plastic surgery is quite weak, but it embellishes the story enough to keep it interesting.

But where "Nighthawks" scores for me is that it came before a Stallone movie was just about over the top action, big muscles and cheesy dialogue and as such it is one of those movies where Stallone tries to create a character. Now for me the whole Serpico look which Stallone has going on is wrong and to be honest it's not great acting but there are moments where you think wow Stallone can do more than just action. The scenes in the police station where he struggles with the order to kill show what Stallone can do when given the chance.

The other good thing about "Nighthawks" is Rutger Hauer as Wulfgar the terrorist. It's by no means Hauer's finest performance when it comes to playing an unsettling bad guy but he brings something to the movie, a sense of unease which works. It's a sort of controlled maniac so that whilst everything he does seems to be pre-planned there is this danger, this element of the unexpected which simmers beneath. And whilst "Nighthawks" features the talents of Billy Dee Williams and Nigel Davenport it is Stallone and Hauer who make it interesting especially in the final scenes.

What this all boils down to is that "Nighthawks" is actually quite an entertaining movie despite being unoriginal and now looking quite dated. What makes it special is that whilst Stallone is the central character it is not your stereotypical big muscle, cheesy dialogue Stallone movie and actually sees him trying to create this multi layered character. It's by no stretch of the imagination anything more than just average but for those who think Stallone can only trade on his physique should check it out.