Bruce Malmuth | Nighthawks | Hard to Kill

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Bruce Malmuth

Bruce Malmuth is a Hollywood film director.


Nighthawks (1981) features a complex political allegory. In it: The government people would like to use the threat posed by the terrorists to institute a police state, something the filmmakers think would be as bad as the disease of terrorism and Communism. The government people are unable to stop terrorism; only Stallone and Williams can do that - just as in real life, the film is arguing, only Democracy can stop Communism.

On a second level, that of sexual politics, Stallone suffers from the disease of excess machismo. In the film plot it has virtually wrecked his marriage; in the allegory male chauvinism is something that could wreck Democracy. Only by accepting the female side of his nature can Democracy succeed; only by dressing in his wife's clothes at the end of the movie can Stallone destroy the terrorists.

The complex scene where Stallone can recognize Hauer in the disco just on intuition alone can be interpreted in many ways. In one way, the human side of Democracy - its ability to enable human feelings that police states of both left and right suppress - is being symbolized here. Stallone - Democracy - has human emotions and sensitivities that are closed to others, allowing him to understand the world emotionally in ways that other systems cannot. He is emotionally alive, while the dictatorships are dead.

Another way of looking at this scene is to suggest there is a sinister affinity between Democracy and Communism, a temptation that Communism holds out to Democracies; something that Stallone can feel, disapprove of, control with an effort of will and morality, but not altogether suppress. Communism is like the evil Double or Twin, a bad side of himself, a moral weakness that is always present and instantly recognizable however it is suppressed.

Nighthawks is one of the most successful allegories since Hawthorne. The politics grows naturally out of the characters and the plot. It is most comparable to Alain Resnais' Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980), where the rich man stands for capitalism, the woman stands for Communism, and Gerard Depardieu for the Third World.

Hard to Kill

Hard To Kill (1990) is an unbelievable but entertaining karate film. Not up to Malmuth's best previous film, Nighthawks.

Features two of the least plausible scenes in film history. In one, our hero comes out of a seven year coma in full fighting trim, ready to combat bad guys in the hospital. In the other, our hero dodges bullets from a machine gun by weaving his car back and forth. This film must be seen to be disbelieved. It's fun, anyway.

The Secret Family

I cannot find any trace of political commentary in Hard to Kill; maybe I should look harder! The film's imagery of the Secret Family is as powerful and original as anything in Nighthawks; so are the cached tapes.

Seagal's family in the film is almost submerged out of existence, very much against its will. Its struggle to re-emerge against the threats of the bad guys, who perhaps represent the Establishment, is a key element of the plot. I don't want to give away too much of the story here - it is best experienced in the film.

What this "means" I don't know; but these heartfelt, poetic and mysterious images are worth meditating on. Even such apparent absurdities as Steven Seagal doing battle from his hospital gurney may have an important poetical or allegorical meaning. This image, however unrealistic, is certainly highly original; one has rarely seen anything like it in other films.