Stuck Home Review: Nighthawks

NighthawksWhat happens when you match up a pair of street cops and an international terrorist? You get the 1981 film, Nighthawks. Sylvester Stallone stars in this action-thriller. Along for the ride, Billy Dee Williams. They run through the streets of New York trying to catch an international terrorist that has made his way into New York City.

The film features the debut of an unknown actor Rutger Hauer in his first American role. As you figure, he is the international terrorist. Knowing this, then watching the film, there is an ease and charm with him. Like any of his roles, you find Hauer showing the magnificent actor that he was. Noting that he never skips a beat when standing up to Stallone.


Stallone and Williams play Deke DaSilva and Matthew Fox. A pair of cops that work the night squad unit of the NYPD. In an odd twist from what he would do in the future, Stallone plays a conservative cop. He doesn’t go out of his way to violate rules. His captain is crawling up his ass. It is a stark contrast to what he will play later in the decade.

Of course, he is a divorced cop, whose ex is played by Lindsay Wagner. The storyline falls a little flat, mostly because the focus of the film diverts to Stallone and Hauer chase. They spend a scene or two with him attempting to get back together with his ex-wife. But that storyline is dropped after the first act and used as a set piece at the end of the movie.

Rocky fans will notice Joe Spinell. He plays Lt. Munafo and marks the last collaboration between Stallone and Spinell. They had done many projects together up to that point, but it was never public addressed. Persis Khambatta is an ally of Hauer. Shakka is a ruthless killer and perhaps is a liability for Wulfgar. Her role is small and insignificant. To be completely honest, if it was changed out for another actor it would have zero impact on the story.

What is it about?

DaSilva and Fox are recruited by a special task force to track Wulfgar, who appears to have made it to America. His plot, of course, is to commit terrorist attacks. His motives are kind of convoluted but with Hauer’s ease, you let it slip. Da Silva and Fox are the only two cops that laid eyes on Wulfgar. After his getaway, Wulfgar makes DaSilva the object of his attention. The playfulness is sort of reminiscent of Die Hard 3 but doesn’t have that sort of payoff.


Unlike Dirty Harry, it doesn’t make any real social commentary of the time. However, it does has a slight character development for DaSilva. He doesn’t take any real risks, as he believes police have a singular job to do. No civilians should be harmed in performance of his duty. However, that is tested when he has to make a choice and it comes back to bite him in the ass. Even Fox questions his decisions. Obviously, he doesn’t unleash a one-man war, but it forces him to question himself.

The film was originally written as a third installment in the French Connection series. However, when Gene Hackman was hesitant about returning, the script was purchased by another studio and turned into Nighthawks. For an hour and thirty-nine minute film, it does tend to drag. Stallone does his best to play a character that is against type. But, the chemistry between Williams and Stallone leaves a little to be desired.


The film had been rewritten a few times and you sense that in the viewing. Lots of potential avenues to explore but anything regarding depth fell to the floor. The film felt like it was trying to be more than it turned out. In the beginning, you felt that. Then it gave way to a chase movie. To be honest, there are a lot of worse early eighties films you could watch. If you dig into eighties cop movies, you can do much worse than this. It is a treat to see Stallone show that he’s more than just Rocky. This film takes place between the second and third film. I don’t regret viewing it, but I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to see it a second time.