Nighthawks (1981)

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Released 24-Dec-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 95:09
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bruce Malmuth

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Billy Dee Williams
Lindsay Wagner
Persis Khambatta
Nigel Davenport
Rutger Hauer
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Keith Emerson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Nighthawks is, more than anything else, a Sylvester Stallone vehicle. Once we accept that, it doesn't seem too bad a movie. Not a good movie, but not too bad a movie, either.

    Sylvester Stallone plays Deke DaSilva, a New York cop who has just spent 8 years on the decoy squad - he spends his time dressing up as bait to attract the attention of muggers (I would have thought that qualified as entrapment, but who am I to comprehend the US justice system). He and his partner Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) have just been reassigned to ATAC, a new anti-terrorist squad. 

    ATAC has been formed, ostensibly, to combat terrorism in general, but really it exists to deal with one terrorist: Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer at his most sinister). Wulfgar has recently made things too hot for himself in Europe, so he has come to the US, partly to hide, and partly to re-establish his reputation as a terrorist for hire. His contact with most of the terrorist groups is a woman known as Shakka (Persis Khambatta), who is nearly as ruthless a killer as he is. Before he gets to the US we get to see Wulfgar blow up a perfume counter (and the chemist shop it is in) - perhaps the message is that a man who will blow up Chanel No 5 will stop at nothing?

    In what few off-duty moments DaSilva gets, he is trying to put his relationship with Irene (Lindsay Wagner) back together, and not having much luck. Given that he invades her work (a fashion house) dressed in clothes more appropriate for busting drug dealers, I find it unsurprising.

    Wulfgar has had plastic surgery just before leaving Europe, and I want the name of his surgeon, because his face is completely healed before he reaches the US - impressive stuff. Despite the change of face, DaSilva spots him immediately in a night club, even with the appalling bad lighting - you can't fool this cop when the scriptwriters are on his side. Wulgar runs off, firing back at the cops. DaSilva counts the shots he fires, and must have recognised the pistol at a distance, in the dark, because he knows how many rounds it holds. Moreover, he knows that Wulfgar isn't carrying extra magazines for said pistol - obviously his eyesight is x-ray, as well. There are some other little flaws in the plot, but perhaps I've given you enough of a feeling for the quality of the plot by now...

    Oh, and by the way, we never do find out why the movie is called Nighthawks, although I recently reviewed Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Three and in the first episode, Xander uses the call-sign NightHawk while hunting vampires. James A Contner (who has directed many episodes of Buffy), is director of photography on this film. I wonder if there's a connection?

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Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture quality is rather poor most of the time. Interestingly, the quality varies from shot to shot. Shots taken from one angle will be filled with noise, while those from another angle are clean - almost as though they were using a variety of cameras of different quality. There are a few shots which are passably sharp, but most are soft to some degree or another. Shadow detail is poor. The noise could be low-level noise - it looks more like that than film grain.

    Colour is acceptable, but not fabulous. Many objects appear in colours that look artificial, or just slightly wrong.

    The picture is never completely clean. Most of the time it is grainy or noisy to a greater or lesser extent. There is some aliasing, some shimmer, some moire, and quite a variety of film artefacts. This is a transfer that has been treated with very little respect.

    There are subtitles in seven languages (the same seven languages as all the other Universal quickies); I checked the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. They are mostly accurate, well-timed, and easy to read, although they are unable to keep up with the pace of the dialogue at around 9:30.

    The disc is single-sided and single-layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are only two soundtracks; English and German, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue is easy to understand, even from Sly (not that he is burdened with heaps to say). There are no visible audio sync problems.

    The score is by Keith Emerson, best known for Emerson Lake and Palmer. It is strident and annoying at intervals, but generally not too bad.

    Neither the surrounds nor the subwoofer get anything to do.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static and silent.

Trailer (1:37)

    The trailer is of lousy quality: the video is blurry, covered in artefacts, and scratched.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released in 1999, in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. That's enough to justify preferring the widescreen R4 version, although the dubious video quality of the R4 disc makes me suggest that you buy neither.


    Nighthawks is a poor movie, treated badly on DVD.

    The video quality is bad, with noise being a particular problem.

    The audio quality is not good.

    The extra is basic.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, January 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
A little harsh on the video aren't you? -