Saturday, 13 February 2016

Hawks (1988)

A film featuring James Bond and Goose from Top Gun, written by the bloke who wrote Last of the Summer Wine, from an idea by a Bee Gee.

As the current TV trails for Radio 4 has it, this is 'a curious bunch' indeed.

Made between his two outing as 007, Hawks is an intriguing vehicle for Timothy Dalton that allows him to show off his comic chops almost twenty years before Hot Fuzz. He stars as Bancroft, a solicitor and patient on a cancer ward, who takes a fellow terminally ill sufferer, a former American football player Deckermensky (Anthony Edwards) under his wing with the philosophy that they must face death with honesty and humour. The normal rules should not apply to them, for they are hawks in a world full of pigeons. Deckermensky resists at first, he's too depressed to treat his impending fate with the cynicism Bancroft is a proponent of, and what's nothing more than to take his own life before the going gets too bad. Eventually, Bancroft manages to talk him out of his suicidal thoughts and the pair ultimately form a strong friendship. They take flight from the hospital by stealing an ambulance and head off to Amsterdam, where they impulsively intend to indulge in one last sex fuelled romp before they die.

But their intentions are diverted when they come across two British damsels in distress; friends Hazel (Janet McTeer) and Maureen (Camille Coduri) who are in Holland searching for the one night stand that got Hazel pregnant. Like Bancroft and Deckermensky, our female characters are also strikingly different; Maureen is a diminutive and lippy blonde bombshell of a Londoner, who is quite worldly-wise, whilst Hazel is a tall and gawky, accident prone northerner, awkward in her own skin. I really love McTeer in this, I'm biased I guess because I've long since admired and crushed on her, but she's so wonderfully clutzy in a pre-Miranda kind of way, that she's effortlessly adorable. She's instantly attracted to Dalton's Bancroft (as indeed is Maureen to Deckermensky) but the two men occasionally struggle to see them as anything other than figures of fun or figures to lust after - so preoccupied and selfish are they to their own mortality. It's a slight shame that their misogyny isn't called out I guess, but this is the 1980s and Hawks, despite being a good little film, is as dated as befits that decade of filmmaking. 

One of the subtle things I enjoyed about Hawks is how, despite his bravado, it's clear that Bancroft is just as terrified of death as Deckermensky is. His cynical humour and red nose wearing are just ways to deflect the issue at hand, to hide from the inevitable - indeed, the beanie hat he habitually wears is just another example of him hiding from his fate; its to cover the baldness his deteriorating condition has developed. But whether Deckermensky, almost the I to Bancroft's Withnail, realises this bullshit is never implicitly stated. Personally, I like to think he knows full well, but is happy to play along with it because it allows him his opportunity to actually face death the way Bancroft is proposing.

Hawks is a funny film - there are some genuine laugh out loud moments, and anyone familiar with scriptwriter Roy Clarke's sitcoms will spot his kind of vernacular in lines such as "You think you know someone and all the time he's got a foot called Gerald" - that neatly avoids the mawkish. Yes, it's dated and yes Barry Gibbs' score is partly responsible for that, but it's a nice experience and dammit if I didn't feel a bit saddened by the end. 

One complaint though - whose idea was it to give Connie Booth just one line?

Fancy watching it? I've put it on YouTube

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