Cinemalphabet: N is for Nighthawks (1981)
There are a lot of things I could say about this French Connection knockoff, but most of them would probably give the impression the film is not very good. In fact it is quite thrilling, interesting and gritty the way so many other films tackling its subject matter are. Nighthawks is a film I associate with the early days of premium cable where I’d watch whatever the hell aired because the novelty of cable television was still fresh. No doubt what initially attracted me to this film as a tween was its fabulously coiffed leads – Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams – in their prime.
It’s hard not to think Serpico when Deke DaSilva (Stallone) shows up with impressive facial hair, leather pimp coats, Barry Gibb hairs and aviator sunglasses. But that’s just styling. His work here is very subtle and all his well known Sly-isms are completely sublimated. Billy Dee Williams is excellent as DaSilva’s partner – did I mention they’re NYPD cops – with the unintentionally lulzy name of Matthew Fox. Stallone and Williams have wonderful chemistry, but not in a way that feels cloying like many buddy cop films do.
Nighthawks concerns itself the containment and apprehension of an discotheque loving, international terrorist played by hobo with a shotgun himself, Rutger Hauer. I remember being TERRIFIED of his character in this film when I was a kid. Something about a blond haired, icy stare terrorist who loves himself some Michael Zager Band and doing the hustle, I don’t know just seemed extra crispy scary to my tween self.
It still floors me that Stallone managed to slip in Nighthawks a year before the one two punch of First Blood and Rocky III. I recall that I had seen Rocky III during the time where Nighthawk was relentlessly airing on premium cable and I was obsessed with all things Rocky Balboa related. I wish I could recall what I thought about seeing him bearded, subdued and not punching slabs of meat. I’m certain it must have been hilarious.