Stallone Saturdays: “Nighthawks”(1981)

By Christian DiMartino

Alright I’ll just come out and say it: I love Sylvester Stallone.

The guy isn’t without his cinematic faults (and believe me, I’ll discuss some of those in the upcoming weeks). Yet for those faults, there is also a lot of joy to be found in his body of work. Sometimes, his movies can be intentionally funny, other times, unintentionally. He can also really act- he may not always show his acting chops, but he’s a star for a reason. So I figured I’d begin a new segment for a little while. Sure I may move onto Schwarzenegger and Swayze and what have you eventually, but for now, the Italian Stallion is my main topic of focus.

Nighthawks is one I never usually hear people talk about. It’s not that it has a bad reputation or anything, I just don’t believe it has… a reputation. Personally I like it  quite a bit. I don’t believe it was anything new at the time, and certainly people have made something similar to it in the years since its release. Yet it’s a thrilling, entertaining cinematic game of cat-and-mouse with a moment of pure awesomeness. Believe me, I will discuss it later.

One thing you will notice about Stallone’s films is the names of the characters which he plays. Rocky Balboa, John Rambo, Lincoln Hawk, John Spartan, Marion Cobretti, etc. Each time, you have to wonder if he considered “Sylvester McBadAwesome.” I’m sure the thought came to mind. In Nighthawks, Stallone plays (wait for it) Deke DeSilva, a name that brings me such joy. DaSilva and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams, not that guy from Lost) are New York City cops who look as if they have stumbled out of the 1970s… in the 80s.

DaSilva and Fox are transferred to an elite anti-terrorism squad… and what timing, I must add. Typically, if Rutger Hauer is in your movie, you can assume trouble is afoot. Here, Hauer plays Wulfgar (these names), a terrorist who has just stumbled into town and is demanding media attention. Hauer, who died last year, usually does a good job of slimy villainy (one will certainly never forget his performance in Blade Runner), and here is no exception. So you get the drill, Wulfgar goes around New York City wreaking havoc and DaSilva and Fox race against the clock to try and stop it.

Again, you have probably seen this before- probably before the release of this movie, and of course later on in movies like Die Hard. Yet here it is done pretty well. The film entertains, its pace is brisk, and there are some decent action sequences here. The acting is pretty good as well. However, what makes this movie special, in my humble opinion, is the ending. I will say that this movie has one of the most goofily awesome endings to any movie I have ever seen. The very thought of it brings me laughter and joy, not just because the thought of it is hilarious, but because the first time you see it, it is truly, genuinely surprising. In fact, that ending is why I chose this movie to kick off the segment. The whole movie is worth seeing- it passes the time pretty easily and nicely- but it is ESPECIALLY worth seeing for that corker of a finale.

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