Tag Archives: Sylvester Stallone

Nighthawks (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Street cop versus terrorist.

Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) work as New York Street cops only to be suddenly pulled off of their beat and put into an elite anti-terrorism division. At first DaSilva resists the tactics taught during the training, which puts him at odds with the instructor (Nigel Davenport). However, once he gets past his initial reluctance he begins to use the methods that were taught to him by getting inside the mind of the international terrorist (Rutger Hauer) that they are after, which eventually helps him beat the man at his own game.

The film’s biggest achievement is that it was shot on-location in three major cities across two continents. Normally it’s nice when a film can just get out of a studio backlot and into a vibrant setting, but this film manages to get in three simultaneously and creates an almost head-spinning, globe-trotting visual show, which helps heighten the international intrigue. My favorite spot was where DaSilva and Fox go into the ghetto to do a drug bust. Normally film crews avoid the bad areas and try to compensate by dressing up a soundstage to look like one, but it always fails while this scene comes off as the real deal with the garbage strewn decrepit buildings being more prominent than the action.

The story succeeds to a degree as it nicely details the psychological aspect of police work as well as showing the many dead-ends investigators must go through before they are finally able to catch a break, but then the gritty reality unfortunately gets erased.

The main issue occurs when Stallone thinks he has spotted Hauer at a nightclub and wants to get nearer to him to get a ‘closer look’ only to proceed to just stand and stare at him in the most obvious way imaginable until it becomes achingly clear to Hauer that the guy is a cop, which causes him to panic and taking out a gun and running while killing a club patron in the process. It made me wonder if the Stallone character was a seasoned cop at all because why bother being undercover if you’re going to just stupidly give your identity away at the most inopportune moment?

Later Stallone gets blamed by Dee Williams for not shooting Hauer when he ‘had the chance’, but the truth is that Hauer had draped himself with a woman hostage and giving Stallone no clear view of him. Aren’t police trained not to shoot unless they do have a clear view? If anything Stallone’s character should’ve been commended for showing restraint. Being goaded into taking a risky shot would not have been ‘macho’ or ‘brave’ but seriously reckless and in no way was a sign of weakness despite the film portraying it like it was.

The film also fails to make much use of the buddy formula and in fact Dee Williams gets boxed out and becomes almost transparent. Stallone is excellent and Hauer is the epitome of a creepy villain, but the film could’ve been stronger had it not devolved into the formulaic tormented-cop-struggling-with-his-inner-demons thing and instead kept the two leads on equal footing as there are a few moments at the beginning where they share some engaging banter.

Lindsay Wagner is equally wasted with only two scenes and less than 10 minutes of total screen time. Davenport though is strong as the aging British instructor and quite engaging in his own right while Persis Khambatta, best known for playing the bald women in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, is effective as Hauer’s partner in crime.

The scene where a group of people are held hostage inside a cable car is intense and well shot. There is also an exciting foot chase inside the New York subway, which has traces to the one done in The French Connection, but the story itself doesn’t amount to much and seems more clichéd than original.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 10, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bruce Malmuth

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Lord’s of Flatbush (1974)

lords of flatbush 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sly and the Fonz.

Butchey (Henry Winkler) forms a leather jacket gang with his friends at a Brooklyn city high school during the 1950’s. The group is made up of Stanley (Sylvester Stallone) who is forced to marry his girlfriend when he gets her pregnant and Chico (Perry King) who romances the pretty new girl in school named Jane (Susan Blakely). As they grow into adulthood they find themselves drifting apart as new interests and demands begin to appear.

This film can best be described as a B-version of American Graffiti that came out just a year earlier. The production values are shoddy with a grainy picture that looks like it was filmed on somebody’s home camera. The story works in fragmented style that comes off more like a series of vignettes than an actual plot. Chico’s romance with Jane happens too quickly and seems artificial from the start especially since they are from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’. The actors themselves are clearly well over 18 and in Stallone’s case almost pushing 30 making their presence and the overall 50’s feel seem unauthentic.

The one thing that saves it is that there are some funny scenes as well as moments of decent drama and character development. The part where Stallone barters with a jeweler over the price of the wedding ring is quite good. I also liked the scene where the boys get together to intimidate a guy who is dating Chico’s girl only to run in fright when the other guy brings in a team of football players to defend him. However, the opening bit dealing with the teens misbehaving in class is not funny at all and I ended up feeling sorry for the teacher who was only trying to do her job.

Although given top billing Winkler is underused and almost forgettable. King is the real star and does quite well while also creating a multi-dimensional character. Stallone steals every scene he is in and proves to be much more adept at comedy than you might think. You can also glimpse Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante and Brooke Adams as wedding guests.

The film also features model-turned-actress Susan Blakely in only her third feature who does well playing the ‘good girl’, but the scene where Chico pressures her into having sex and she resists while asking him what color her eyes are in an attempt to see if he really ‘knows’ her and not just using her makes no sense. For one thing her big, blue eyes are the most prominent part of her face. Anyone, even a stranger, who glances at her face for even a second would know the color of her eyes, and thus having her ask someone what color they are is ridiculous already and then having them unable to tell her makes it the dumbest part of the whole movie.

susan blakely

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 1, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Davidson and Stephan Verona

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Death Race 2000 (1975)

death race 2000

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: New meaning to roadkill.

Based on the novel ‘The Racer’ by Ib Melchior the year is 2000 and a highly rated cross-country race takes place on television between many colorful individuals. There is Frankenstein (David Carradine) who has lost an arm and a leg in past races and must wear a leather mask to cover up his facial scarring. Then there is his chief rival Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone) and also Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov) Nero the Hero (Martin Kove) and Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins). Of course this is no ordinary race as crossing the finish line isn’t really as important as how many innocent bystanders they can kill along the way.

The idea is outrageous and for the most part director Paul Bartel manages to pull it off especially within the limitations of the budget. There are real kick-ass car explosions here and none of that computerized crap, which in itself gives it a few extra points. I liked the scene were an actual car is seen dropping down a steep cliff and how they were able to block off long sections of highways in order to be the only cars on the road. Some of the dark humor is funny although more so in the beginning. The best moment is when a group of doctors and nurses wheel up some elderly patients onto the middle of the roadway in order to be slaughtered by the racers as part of the their annual ‘euthanasia day’.

Sly is really funny. I know some critics have gotten on him over the years about his acting, but here he steals it from his costars and the film wouldn’t have been as effective without him. Carradine is pretty good in his part and his more subdued acting style makes a nice contrast to Stallone’s flamboyant one. The two even end up in a nice fist fight. However, I liked the idea of having the Carradine character being this walking gimp of a man so intoxicated with winning that he continues to drive and compete even as his body falls apart. Having him take of his mask and look completely normal and making that all a sham was disappointing and took away the unique gritty mystic of the character.

The initial treatment of the script was written by producer Roger Corman and then Bartel was hired in to put a more humorous spin on it. Although I like the idea of having some comedy I still wanted more gore and grittiness. Instead it becomes too campy and cartoonish and losing the potential edge that it has at the beginning. There also needed to be more of a focus on the race itself. As it is it goes too fast with pit stop segments that bogged the whole thing down. They manage to get from New York to St. Louis in one day, which if going on I-70 would be 953 miles and doesn’t seem possible even at high speeds. There is also a question of the speed of these cars. Supposedly they are ‘real fast’, but there is one segment where Joe tries to run down a kindly fisherman and the guy is able to out run the car for quite a distance before he is hit, so they can’t be all that fast.

There is also a secondary storyline involving an underground group called the People’s army that is trying to sabotage the race and put an end to it. Initially I felt this thread would allow for more intrigue, but instead it makes the whole thing too over-the-top. The short running time doesn’t allow for such a convoluted plot and the whole thing would have been better served had they stuck to the race and racers personalities itself. The sappy ‘feel-good’ twist ending is terrible and ruins whatever potential edge the film had.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 27, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 20Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Bartel

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video