A wonderfully funny movie from 1991 which was a huge flop at the box office, because it was promoted as an action film (because that's what Bruce Willis had recently been so successful in, with Die Hard) instead of a surrealistic comedy. If the advertising hadn't been so deceptive, it might have attracted the audience that a movie about singing cat burglars caught between an eccentric billionaire couple, the CIA, and the Vatican deserves.
The film was directed by Michael Lehmann. The writing of the original story was done by Bruce Willis himself and Robert Kraft, but the actual screenplay was by Steven E. de Souza and Daniel Waters.
As the film starts, we see Leonardo da Vinci working on some interesting inventions, such as a flying machine and a machine intended to turn lead into bronze, which ends up creating gold instead. Da Vinci is shown taking apart the sections of a big weird-shaped crystal that formed an important part of the machine.
And then jump forward a few centuries to 1991 New York. Cat burglar Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins (Willis) is just being released from ten years in prison (and spurning the offer of his corrupt parole officer Gates to jump right back into crime). His best friend Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) picks him up, and even brings him his favorite beverage:
Hawk: If I don't get a cappuccino soon, I'm going to strangle somebody.
Tommy: You still got a thing for those unmasculine European coffees? Here's your buddy. (hands him a cappuccino)
Hawk: The Man knows! The Man knows!
Tommy tries to reintroduce him to the world he's been separated from for a decade -- Eddie doesn't even know what Nintendo is! However, Eddie and Tommy are forced by a pair of mobsters called the Mario Brothers into performing the theft Eddie's parole officer suggested earlier, a smallish Leonardo da Vinci sculpture of a horse called the Sforza which is in a local museum. (Here is introduced Eddie's habit of timing things by the lengths of songs, such as "Swingin' on a Star.") The statue is stolen sucessfully but the museum guards discover the thieves and chase them off the roof of the multi-story museum. In desperation, Eddie and Tommy jump off -- and in one of the random surreal things that happen in this movie, Eddie lands in a living room containing his parole officer and the Mario brothers. They take the statue from him and hand it over to stereotypical British butler-type Alfred, who breaks the statue over Gates' head to reach the section of crystal hidden inside.
Oddly the next day's paper says the burglary was a failure, and the Sforza is still there to be auctio
ned. Eddie attends the auction out of curiosity and meets Anna Baragli (Andie Macdowell
), an art
expert from the Vatican
who vouches for the (replacement) statue's authenticity
before the bidders. Most of the people bidding are subdued, but as the price goes higher, two new people burst onto the scene -- Darwin Mayflower (Richard E. Grant
) and his equally flamboyantly nutty wife Minerva Mayflower (Sandra Bernhard
). They make the highest bid but then the auction is disrupted by an explosion
(and Eddie saves Anna from being crushed under a falling pillar).
Anna: That was bold of you. You didn't have to do that.
Hawk: It was nothing. Anyone would have done the same thing.
Anna: No, I mean you didn't have to tackle me and rip my dress.
There's another explosion, and Eddie comes to in an ambulance -- but the Mario brothers are where paramedics ought to be, and Eddie ends up on a stretcher, dragged behind the ambulance by some knotted sheets through New York traffic. When he finally reaches safety, he meets George Kaplan (James Coburn), a CIA agent in charge of four operatives with code names taken from candy bars. They drug him and put him in a box of Styrofoam peanuts (apparently the box also has air holes, because Eddie makes it to their destination).
And that destination is . . . Rome, Italy! Once there, he is given a personal introduction to the Mayflowers and told they want him to steal another da Vinci artifact -- this one from the Vatican. (Hawk: "The Vatican, robbing the freakin' Vatican. The nuns at St. Agnes predicted this.") While checking out the museum during business hours, Eddie again meets Anna, who is doing a lecture for tourists. A stuffed animal belonging to an obnoxious child gives Eddie a chance to test the security system. When he comes back that night, he does get the codex he is there for, but Anna, with whom he'd made a dinner date for afterward, seems to know what he's done when the codex falls out of his satchel. He tries to explain how he's been forced to steal these items. Then Anna reveals she's drugged his cappuccino, and after he loses consciousness, the candybar operatives show up at Anna's apartment to take Eddie, Anna and the codex to Kaplan's Rome headquarters.
Apparently Kaplan told the Vatican that he and the CIA were working against the Mayflowers' plans, but Anna is getting suspicious, since Eddie told her Kaplan and the Mayflowers were actually working together. This is confirmed when Anna leaves Kaplan's headquarters and happens to see the Mayflowers' dog Bunny outside. We next see Anna explaining her findings to a Cardinal through the screen of a confessional booth -- from which she emerges in a black and white nun's habit, and is cautioned by the Cardinal to remember her vows to God along with the work at hand.
Kaplan takes Eddie to see the Mayflowers, who criticize his burglary work but tell him he's got one more thing to steal.
Darwin Mayflower: The last ingredient in the recipe is Da Vinci's model of a helicopter...
Minerva Mayflower: ...on display for three days only at the Louvre in Paris.
Hudson Hawk: As opposed to the Louvre in Wisconsin?
They also explain that the point of all these burglaries is to retrieve the crystal segments and recreate da Vinci's gold-making machine. Eddie refuses to steal anything more, so the Mayflowers blindfold and handcuff him to a chair. He manages to free himself shortly -- but the Mayflowers are gone and Tommy Five-Tone is in the room with him. Tommy apologizes for being part of the Mayflowers' scheme, but suddenly on the balcony where Kaplan and the Mayflowers are eating, Eddie and Tommy are seen running out of the building, yelling and shooting at each other. Tommy appears to have been shot in the chest, and an ambulance drives up (oddly quickly), loads both men in, and drives up with sirens blazing.
Eddie and Tommy are delivered not to a hospital or jail but to Anna, and Tommy reveals that the guns only contained blanks. Hawk thinks he'll be spending the night in Anna's bed, but both men end up in her living room -- and are awakened in the morning by Kaplan and the Candybars, who use a blowpipe and curare darts to paralyze Eddie and Tommy, and when she comes back from going out for breakfast food, Anna as well. They tell Eddie that they did the Louvre break-in without him and reveal to him that Anna is a nun.
Anna: It doesn't mean I don't love you.
Hudson Hawk: Oh, no! You love me! It's YOUR JOB! You probably love Butterfingers over there.
Anna: Well, yeah, in a weird sort of Catholic way, I do.
Kaplan and two of the Candybars cart off the still-paralyzed Anna, while the remaining two plant bombs in her apartment, intending to leave Eddie and Tommy there to die. However, the good guys have managed to regain enough movement to knock out the Candybars and escape. They head to the Mayflowers' castle, where Anna is still too drugged and loopy (or faking it convincingly) to assemble the crystal sections for the Mayflowers. (Anna: I feel like a dolphin who's never tasted melted snow. What does the color blue taste like? Bobo knows? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I must speak with the dolphins now. Eeeee-eeee-eee-eeeeeee!)
Eddie and Tommy use the Candybars' remaining bombs to create diversions as they sneak into the castle, but still Eddie has to fight off Kaplan and Tommy gets trapped in the Mayflowers' limo as as Alfred sends it off a cliff. Eddie and Anna find each other, but the Mayflowers capture them both and make them put the crystal together. Eddie manages to leave out a small segment, and the machine malfunctions spectacularly and kills both Mayflowers. Eddie and Anna have to battle Alfred the butler and Bunny the dog before they can escape the castle in da Vinci's flying machine. After that, they finally have time to think about what must have happened to Tommy --but then he hops off a local farm wagon and is happily reunited with them.
Hudson Hawk: You're supposed to be all cracked up at the bottom of the hill!
Tommy Five-Tone: Airbags! Can you fucking believe it?
Anna: You're supposed to be blown up into fiery chunks of flesh!
Tommy Five-Tone: Sprinkler system set up in the back! Can you fucking BELIEVE it?