The Curator of Schlock #387: Nighthawks

The Curator of Schlock #387 by Jeff Shuster


The movie, not the Hopper painting. 

So I learned that the town of Mooseville in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan was involved in an illegal kangaroo and koala bear slaughtering operation. The town salmon canning factory was a front for their black market canned marsupial meat. While imprisoned there, I ran into Larry, a secret agent employed by the Canadian government who bore a striking resemblance to Don Knotts. He made me a “field asset” and together we were going to bring these kangaroo butchers down!

This week’s movie is 1981’s Nighthawks from director Bruce Malmuth. Who says we don’t cover big movies on this blog? They don’t come bigger than Nighthawks, a Hollywood blockbuster starring Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rugter Hauer, Lindsay Wagner, Nigel Davenport, Joe Spinell, and Persis Khambatta. Some of you may remember Persis Khambatta as Lieutenant Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Sickness. Not that I remember her from that movie, you nerd! We’ve also got an original score by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fame.

Our movie begins with an old lady walking down a darkened New York City alley. Three hooligans emerge from the shadows demanding her purse. One rough threatens her face with a switchblade. The old lady wields her purse like a mace, busting the mouth of one of the muggers. Off comes the old woman’s mask, and we get a fully bearded Sly Stallone as Sergeant Deke DaSilva. Joining him is Sergeant Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams). Together they form the Nighthawks, a duo of elite undercover police officers.

Meanwhile, in merry old England, a terrorist named Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer), blows up a London department store in the name of all victims of British colonialism. Turns out he was hired by the Irish Republican Army, but they’re not too pleased with children being killed in their name. The police learn Wulfgar’s identity and almost capture him with the aid of an IRA informant, but Wulfgar makes short work of them. Through his partner, Shakka (Persis Khambatta), he arranges some plastic surgery and heads out to New York City.

DaSilva and Fox are pulled from their street duties and assigned to  ATAC (Anti-Terrorist Action Command). A British terrorism expert, Inspector Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport), pushes DeSilva in ways he doesn’t appreciate like when he brings up DaSiva’s failed marriage to Irene (Lindsay Wagner). Wulfgar starts seeing a woman he met at a disco, but murders her when she discovers his trunk of guns and bombs. This gives DaSilva and Fox the bright idea of finding the club this young woman frequented.

When they find the club she frequented, DaSilva spots a guy who matches an estimated description of Wulfgar with plastic surgery. DaSilva gives him the stink eye for a bit before yelling out “Wulfgar!”  Out pops a gun and Wulfgar starts lighting up the club before dashing out the back, DaSilva and Fox in close pursuit. DaSilva has Wulfgar in his sights, but then Wulfgar takes an old lady hostage. Fox screams at DaSilva to take the shot, but he’s too concerned about shooting the old lady and so the terrorist gets away.

I won’t spoil anymore of the movie, but this one is a keeper. I heard this languished in development hell for years and was originally intended to be The French Connection III. The movie was also trimmed from its original length. I think I read that there was a missing scene of Stallone bawling his eyes out after his ex-wife refuses to take him back.

What could have been!

Still, what we got is a taught thriller that’s well worth your time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get down to Keith Emerson’s super-funky synth groove on The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man.”

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

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