Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'?: Ladyhawke (1985)

Welcome back to the second week of Rutger lovin' that I'm calling Hey Girl. Hauer You Doin'? If you missed last week, go back and catch up on our man Mr. Hauer in New World he struggles as an out of step gumshoe in a technical world  This week whisks Rutger off to another time and place, a land of mystery and wonder, a place where you might meet a lady who is also, get this, a hawk. I have a very distinct memory of being at one of the first science fiction conventions I had ever attended and sitting around a hotel room, with a bunch of strangers, watching Ladyhawke. This was around 1991 or so folks, and I have to admit that while I liked Ladyhawke okay, I had another thought in my teenage mind. Chicks dug Ladyhawke, and the room was packed with a gaggle of girls, most of whom would have shared the last name Half-Elven. Now I was about as cool as a Halfling back then, so I didn't even get half-way to talking to any of the gals in cloaks and fringed boots. However, it was the last time I remembered watching Ladyhawke before this week, and while I thought back on the film fondly, my memory might have run more toward young ladies in poets blouses with daggers on their hips than the actual flick.

Matthew Broderick stars as Phillipe "The Mouse" Gaston, a cunning young theirs who escapes from the dungeons of the evil Bishop of Aquilia (John Wood). The Mouse almost gets captured again, but the returning of Captain of the Guard, Etienne Navarre (Hauer) intercedes on his behalf and helps the young thief get away. Captain Navarre needs Gaston's special skills. Seeing as The Mouse is the only man to scape the Bishop's dungeons, he certainly could get back in again. The Mouse is tasked with planning their break in, and by day, he travels with Navarre and his pet hawk. By night The Mouse finds himself menaced by a fearsome wolf and dazzled by the company of the fair maiden Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer). He soon learns that Etienne and Isabeau are lovers, curse by the Bishop to spend night and day apart, trading animal forms. Only with the help of The Mouse can Etienne confront the Bishop and break the curse and bring true love together.

While Ladyhawke carried with it the cache of medieval fantasy in the sword and sorcery vein,  at its core, Ladyhawke has more in common with bodice ripping romance than The Lord of the Rings. While there are a number of action sequences and sword fights, Hauer's most pivotal moments are spent spitting out emo, introspective bon mots rather then swinging steel. Ladyhawke bogs down the most when it tries to force more action into the film with a hunter on the trail of Etienne in wolf form. All in all, my memory wasn't as faulty as I thought it might be. This was still fantasy geared toward lovers of Anne McCaffrey rather than Robert Jordan, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy it as well. While Ladyhawke never could strike the right balance of romance and action, it provided enough of each to keep me interested in the inter-species relationship in spite of the maudlin or mundane moments.

A lot of the credit for this could go to the three lead actors. Matthew Broderick plays The Mouse like a more cowardly Ferris Bueller in a jerkin. His asides to God keep the character endearing, and even add a bit of edgy humor to a rather bland, straightforward tale. Some have criticized Rutger Hauer of being campy or cartoonish in his portrayal of Etienne Navarre, but I didn't see it. For my money, he gave a sensitive performance that shone through the tough guy exterior. The real money here is Michelle  Pfeiffer . As the alluring Isabeau, her scenes with Broderick were a highlight. Her character, even while in hawk form, is the emotional core of Ladyhawke, and even when she's not onscreen her presence is felt in every moment. English actor John Wood is perhaps the weakest link in the film, but I'm not sure it's entirely his fault. With rather limited screen time, and no real cruelty on display, the Bishop comes off a toothless villain whose menace is almost consequential to the plot.

So did Ladyhawke allow the young Bugg to swoop down and pick up one of those fantasy lovin' ladies at the Sci-Fi convention? Of course not, but it was one of the first times I recall really appreciating Rutger as an actor outside of his Bladerunner performance. In the end, I guess I left that hotel room screening with someone after all. It was Rutger on my arm, and it's been a beautiful friendship ever since. Well, that wraps it up for the first of two Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'? entries you'll be seeing this week. Coming up tomorrow, join me back here again to check out Rutger, Busey, Ice-T, and John C. McGinley in the Hard Target-esque Surviving the Game.

Bugg Rating

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching thsi one as a kid, and finding it strange because it wasnt more of a fantasy film. It kind of was...but it wasnt you know what I mean? I guess its pretty subtle with the fantasy stuff. I also remember not liking the films musical score which was a rock and roll soundtrack if I remember correctly, I kept feeling like it just didnt match with the kind of film it was. Kind of like in all those Dario Argento movies where he uses heavy metal.

    Hey, you should review Night Hawks, that was one of Hauer's best films ever!


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