Nighthawks (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes


Nighthawks (1981)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are New York police officers specially assigned to a special multi-national team dedicated to tracking down terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer). Wulfgar planted a bomb in a London department store, killing several children and he is now an outcast, hunted by both the police and his fellow gang members. He has extensive plastic surgery and resumes his activities aided by Shakka (Persis Khambutta), a completely psychotic fellow outcast. Soon DaSilva and Wulfgar are engaged in a violent battle of wits as Wulfgar resumes his terrorist activities and threatens New York . This very effective thriller features a chilling performance by Rutger Hauer as the handsome, ruthless cold-blooded killer who charms women into helping him and then kills them. Sylvester Stallone gives an unusually understated emotionally vulnerable performance as a man trying to save lives while he saves his own marriage. The film makes excellent use of New York locales, particularly during a terrifying hijacking of a cable car where Wulfgar coolly decides which of the hostages will live or die.

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Sylvester Stallone
as Deke DaSilva
Nigel Davenport
as Peter Hartman
Joe Spinell
as Lt. Munafo
Walter Mathews
as Commissioner
E. Brian Dean
as Sergeant
Tony Munafo
as Big Mike
Howard Stein
as Disco Manager
Tawn Christian
as Disco Hostess
Jamie Gillis
as Designer
Luke Reilly
as Conductor
Yvette Hawkins
as Mrs. Ntembwe
Walter Mac Neil
as Commissioner
Jacques Roux
as French Ambassador
Clebert Ford
as Nigerian Ambassador
Eivind Harum
as Swedish Ambassador
Obaka Adedunyo
as Mr. Ntembwe
Corine Lorain
as Suzanne Marigny
Jean-Pierre Stewart
as Rene Marigny
Patrick Fox
as Reporter
Tom Degidon
as Immigration Officer
Rita Tellone
as Brunette
Al Cerullo
as Helicopter Pilot
Karl Wickman
as Helicopter Pilot
Frederick Treves
as Chief Police Inspector
Zoya Leporska
as Subway Hostage
Susan Vanner
as Girl at Party
Cliff Cudney
as A.T.A.C. Man
Joe Dabenigno
as A.T.A.C. Man
Steve Daskawisz
as A.T.A.C. Man
John Devaney
as A.T.A.C. Man
Jim Beaver
as Subway Passenger
Paul Farentino
as A.T.A.C. Man
Edward Fox
as A.T.A.C. Man
Randy Francklan
as A.T.A.C. Man
Caesar Cordova
as Puerto Rican Proprietor
Billy Dee Williams
as Matthew Fox
Rutger Hauer
as Wulfgar
Charles Duval
as Dr. Ghiselin
Al Levitsky
as A.T.A.C. Man
Richard Noyce
as A.T.A.C. Man
Dar Robinson
as A.T.A.C. Man
Judee Wales
as A.T.A.C. Man
Luke Walter
as A.T.A.C. Man
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News & Interviews for Nighthawks

Critic Reviews for Nighthawks

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (6)

A film that is exciting and fast paced, with both Stallone and Williams handling the action roles in first-rate style. Davenport, as always, comes across well, and then there's Hauer, who gives the film a slightly different and winning dimension.

December 29, 2021 | Full Review…

A dynamic action film whose expertise is never in question but which fails to touch a nerve in the viewer.

December 29, 2021 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Nighthawks, an aggressively shallow police thriller pitting New York undercover cops against international terrorists.

December 18, 2015 | Full Review…

Though there's never much doubt how the duel will end, the climax is nonetheless surprising and totally satisfying, topping the energy of the previous pursuit.

January 30, 2009 | Full Review…

A terrorist hijacking a cable car, even in New York, is a mildly ludicrous idea -- were no 747s handy? The plot of Nighthawks makes no sense.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

All of it is standard stuff, and yet Nighthawks has been assembled with enough pep to make it feel fresh.

August 30, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Nighthawks

Rambo and Lando more or less remake French Connection, but with a terrorist (Rutger Hauer in his debut) instead of a drug dealer.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

Very much in the same tradition of the French Connection, an 80s equivalent and almost as good. The good vs. evil aspect is the strongest and quite possibly the most effective in a plot like this. Part of that is due to both Rutger Hauer and Sylvester Stallone's flawless performances. Sly is actually a lot different than he usually is in this, way more of a hothead and energetic. However, it's Rutger Hauer as the terrorist mastermind Wulfgar who totally dominates the movie. The cinematography is great, just another one of the many strong suites this has. I love the story, terrorism has never been handled quite so well in a cop movie. This is believable, non-stereotyped and just really cool. It's a shame that this goes along without a bigger fanbase, hopefully one day it will be appreciated properly.

Conner Rainwater
Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer

.Nighthawks is a remarkable film on many levels and more than eerily prophetic, considering what took place in New York City twenty years after its release in 1981. It focuses on two undercover police detectives, Sgt. Deke DaSilva(Sylvester Stallone) and his partner Sgt. Matthew Fox(Billy Dee Williams)who work in the NYPD Citywide Street Crime Unit as decoy officers. Donning different disguises, they walk the streets of the City's toughest neighborhoods, offering themselves up as bait for muggers and other lowlifes. This unit was responsible for taking a lot of guns and dangerous people off the streets. Unfortunately, in the wake of the Amadou Diallo shooting in the Bronx in 1999, it was disbanded. The arrival in New York of an international terrorist named Wulfgar(Rutger Hauer) finds the two Detectives temporarily reassigned to an elite counter-terrorist unit called ATAC. A British expert on counterterrorism in general and Wulfgar in particular(Nigel Davenport) is recruited by the Department to train the selectees in the different strategies and tactics they'll need to deal with this new threat. His character, Peter Hartman, is an old hand at understanding the terrorist mentality and how they operate. He is also a believer in "taking the shot" when the opportunity presents itself, even if it results in "collateral damage", or death to a civilian hostage. Stallone's character has a big problem with all this. He indicates that he didn't join the Department to kill people, whether they're street criminals, terrorists, or especially, innocent civilians. Clashing with Hartman at every juncture, he says he doesn't want any part of this and indicates to the Englishman that he's quitting the unit. His partner talks him out of it by telling him that Hartman sees him as one of the best and that's why he was chosen. In reviewing DaSilva's wartime kill record in Vietnam, Hartman tells him that he has faith that when the time comes, he'll do what needs to be done. Wulfgar is very intelligent, cunning and good-looking and his MO is to hook up with women he meets at discos and move in with them, using their apartments as a safe house. When he meets Pam(Hilany Thompson), an airline stewardess, she asks him what he does for a living. Knowing that she won't believe him, he tells her the truth- that he's an international terrorist wanted by the police in various European countries. When she stumbles upon his weapons stash in her closet after he moves in with her, she realizes too late that what he told her was not a jocular remark. When the police find her body they also find a clue that he inadvertently left behind indicating what his strike target here in the City will be. DaSilva and Fox start scouring the discotheques with the woman's photo in hand to try and get a line on whom she might have hooked up with. They hit paydirt when DaSilva spots whom he suspects might be Wulfgar at a disco with his newly altered facial appearance, courtesy of plastic surgery in Europe. DaSilva uses the police trick of staring Wulfgar down to see if he gets hinky and Wulfgar realizes he's been "made." A chase into the subway ensues, with Wulfgar taking an elderly woman hostage at knifepoint. DaSilva gets him in his sights but doesn't take the shot out of fear of hitting the hostage. In the ensuing chase, Sgt. Fox is ambushed by Wulfgar, who slices his face open and then makes good his escape. DaSilva, whose button has now been pushed, will no longer harbor any illusions about what he's dealing with. Wulfgar's associate in terrorism is one Shakka Holland, played by the beautiful late Indian actress Persis Khambatta. She is so effective in her portrayal of a coldhearted woman who kills without compunction or remorse, that your blood will be chilled when you see her on screen. Without even saying anything, she will terrify you. You will not forget the look on her face. It will definitely haunt your dreams. We all know that the movie is leading up to a climactic confrontation between DaSilva and Wulfgar. And we know when that moment of truth arrives that DaSilva, now effectively disabused of his "I'm not here to kill anyone" philosophy, will indeed do what needs to be done. I won't reveal the ending here, other than to say that it reflects well on his training and experience in the Street Crime Unit. This is a well-crafted film with excellent performances, beautiful photography, and a storyline that will resonate with the viewer on a visceral level. It will keep you hooked from the opening sequence until the end, this is a very underrated Stallone film and well worth checking out for anyone in the mood for a good action thriller

David Ladd
David Ladd

Super Reviewer

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