Last week, we looked at Mary Tyler Moore as an undercover nun in Change of Habit and I said, “That’s not a thing.” I guess I was wrong; here we go again with another undercover nun, but Hudson Hawk may top Change of Habit by coming through with a Secret Agent Undercover Nun. It says something about the film that a nun sent out by the Vatican as part of a counter-espionage operation working with the CIA is one of the least ridiculous parts of the movie.
In 1991, Bruce Willis was golden. With huge success in television (Moonlighting) and movies (Die Hard), and even music (The Return of Bruno) he could do almost any project he wanted. He wanted to do Hudson Hawk. A film that best remembered as a box office flop and a critical failure. He has story credit for this tale of the world’s greatest safecracker and cat burglar, Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hudson (Willis). He’s newly released from jail, and he’s blackmailed into stealing the writings and art of Leonardo da Vinci in order to create “Le Macchina dell’Oro,” a machine that can manufacture gold.
That sounds silly enough, but throw in Mayflower Industries, a “psychotic American corporation;” CIA agents named George Kaplan (James Coburn), Snickers, Kit Kat (David Caruso), Almond Joy, and Butterfinger; cartoon sound effects; and a robbery method that incorporates Big Band renditions of the Great American Songbook -- then you have a very weird film. So the addition of a seductive nun, I guess, is just par for the movie’s course.
But Mafia bad guys, the Mario Brothers, still want Hawk to go back to his life of crime. They tell him, “My man, you’re going to hit a church. We want you to steal Da Vinci’s sketchbook. The Codex.”
Hawk responds, “I’m robbing the Vatican? The nuns at St. Agnes predicted this.”
Anna sees Hawk at the Vatican and expects the worst. She goes to her superior, a cardinal, with her concerns. “Father, it’s obvious he’s up to something.”
The cardinal assures her that the Vatican has stopped pirates and terrorists, and they’ll stop this plot. He does worry about Anna’s relationship with Hawk, “Must you flirt with him so effectively?”
Hawk helps foil the robbery at the Vatican, and Anna takes him to her apartment. He tells Anna some of his story which she acts surprised by, “Wow! You were...in the joint. Doing...hard time? You know, it’s funny, but that excites me. I seem to have a thing for sinners.”
Hawk answers, “Well, I seem to have a thing for sinning.” Nothing goes further in the evening than a back rub and a few kisses, but even that seems like a bit much for a nun.
Her confessor, the cardinal, give her seventeen Hail Marys and asks for five minutes to talk to her outside. He tells her not to trust the CIA, which in this case proves to be good advice.
Later, Anna comes to Hawk’s rescue but admits she’s a nun. She tries to explain to him, “It doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
He retorts, “Oh, no! You love me! It’s your job! You probably love Butterfingers over there.”
“Well, yeah,” Anna says, “In a weird sort of Catholic way I do.”
They find a way to defeat the bad guys and escape using one of Leonardo’s flying machines. Hawk asks her, “Anna, will you play Nintendo with me?” (The game system came along while Hawk was in the slammer.) She thinks that sounds like fun. “What about your boss?” Hawk asks.
“I think He wants me to keep an eye on you,” she answers.
The film ends and the audience is left to wonder whether Anna’s next confession will be about video games or something a little more racy and/or vow breaking. And one really wonders why the Vatican wouldn’t look toward, say, the Swiss Guard for help with security and espionage rather than convents. It seems it would lead to less moral compromise.