One Valuable Life Lesson Hiding in One of the Worst Films

Teenage stupidity is magical.
One Valuable Life Lesson Hiding in One of the Worst Films

Teenage stupidity is magical. At that age, you're so dumb that you may think you know you're dumb, but you're actually so ignorant (and arrogant) that you think you're smart and wise for knowing you're dumb. In reality, you're just dumb. Take away the recursive loop of delusion and any sense of how wise you are even though you're so young that your pubes still have that new pube smell, and the truth is all that remains:

You Are Dumb

Inevitably, we all have that one profound moment of clarity where the puzzle pieces of life snap together to reveal an image -- an image that might be the first step in understanding the meaning of life itself:

You Are Dumb

You are dumb -- it's a painful, humbling, and necessary lesson you have to learn or you're screwed for life. You're not as smart as you think you are. This shouldn't be such a profound moment for people, seeing as a long time ago Socrates summed it up with his Socratic paradox: "I know that I know nothing." You may understand the meaning of that bit of wisdom, but until you experience it firsthand, you don't get it. Movies, and pop culture in general, have played a big role in shaping me into the person I am today, for better and for worse. So I guess it's fitting that I learned that important life lesson through a movie. It's just too bad the movie wasn't something like The Godfather or Blade Runner -- any movie with some meaning and weight. I learned it through one of the biggest, most spectacular pieces of cinematic shit in film history.

My guess is that I was abused as a child and I blocked it out, and all of that pent-up self-loathing leaked out in the form of really liking the movie Hudson Hawk, a 1991 Bruce Willis movie so bad, it drove TriStar Pictures into financial ruin.

TriStar Pictures

"Catch some flies in your mouth as you're in in awe of how shitty it is!"

It's an incomprehensible blend of a heist movie with a conspiracy movie and an action movie, and it's funny, but not for the reasons the creators intended, and there's Leonardo da Vinci and some people named after candy bars and a butler with blades in his arms and a mute who speaks in business cards. If you've never seen it and now you're confused, nothing will be made clearer after you watch it. It launched a bunch of shit at a wall hoping some would stick, but all of it stuck, and no one stopped to ask, "How about we throw something other than shit at this wall?"

I watched it on TV so many times that if I had a Nielsen ratings box, my home's data would have been reported as faulty and tossed out -- no one watches that much Hudson Hawk without it being a glitch.

Pretty much everyone I've ever met has a low opinion of the movie, including one of my childhood friends, Steven.

Steven invited me to stay at his place for spring break during our freshman year of high school. He gave me the grand tour of the city he called home: Lake Worth, Florida, a place that isn't much more than a name on a road sign. I really only have two clear memories of what I thought about Lake Worth:

1. Is this whole city a golf course?

2. Hooooo-lllllly shit.

Number two was my reaction after Steven introduced me to his local video store. It was a cathedral erected in honor of film. DVDs were juuuust catching on, and we couldn't afford them yet. VHS was still your go-to format if you wanted to buy a movie, and I had never seen so many VHS copies of movies in one place in my life. I grew up in a major American city, and I loved movies, yet somehow I had never once come across a place like this before. All of that informed my opinion of this video store in Lake Worth: This place was my paradise. I was overwhelmed by choice. I wanted to throw the few bucks I had in my pocket at every movie on the shelves. I yearned for something new, something dangerous. I wanted to buy a movie that would change me the way I've always heard reading On the Road or The Catcher in the Rye changed kids of previous generations.

the CATCHER in the RYE J. SALINGER a novel by D.
Little, Brown and Company/Michael Mitchell

"I'm going to be a whiny, petulant little bitch from now on!" -someone of a previous generation

And there it was. Glimmering with a heavenly radiance, there was Hudson Hawk on VHS. I loved Hudson Hawk with all of my misguided little heart. But it was a dangerous love, the kind of love that renders you blind to subtle faults -- subtle faults like a rotted foot sticking out of someone's face.

"Holy shit!" I shouted. "They have Hudson Hawk!"

"What is that?" asked Steven.

Steven had never seen, or even heard of, Hudson Hawk.

Oooooh, shit. Strap in, motherfucker. Hope you're wearing a mouth guard, because the shockwave of your blown mind will shatter them bitches to dust if you don't take the necessary precautions.

I needed to impart to him the importance and greatness of this Bruce Willis masterpiece. I told Steven about all the things that made Hudson Hawk spectacular. The heists. The candy bar people. The shit about da Vinci. The butler with the hidden blades. I enthusiastically unloaded both barrels of Hudson Hawk passion into Steven's brain. As I was nearing the end of my magnificent explosion of fanboyism, I knew I had to close with one clear-cut example of this film's glory that would seal the deal and lead to Steven watching Hudson Hawk in slack-jawed awe later that afternoon as I sat back with an arrogant smile.

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Apparently in high school I was a middle-aged man in a suit wearing a crown during a business meeting.


In the movie, Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello are master thieves. To prove this to the audience, they pull off their heists as they sing a song with the same running time as the heist. If they only have, say, three and a half minutes to steal a thing, they will sing a song that is three and a half minutes long as they steal the thing. This basically turns the heist sequences into musical numbers. This was my closer. This was to be the crescendo of my exuberant description of a masterful film that was unrivaled by any other in the action/comedy/crazy butler/da Vinci conspiracy/world domination through alchemy genre of film. I told Steven about the singing heists with such fervor, such unbridled joy, that when I finished I should have stomped my foot and struck Vaudevillian Jazz Hand pose. I should have shouted "TADA!" If I had a microphone, I would have dropped it and everyone would have lost their minds.

I expected the next words out of Steven's mouth to be "I didn't know I had a Hudson Hawk-size hole in my heart until this moment," followed by a showering of roses, as if I were being honored as a geek matador who had effortlessly dodged the charging bull of fandom.

One Valuable Life Lesson Hiding in One of the Worst Films
TriStar Pictures

This moment from Hudson Hawk shows you how to make someone watch Hudson Hawk.

Steven just stared. "Why don't they just wear watches?"

Why don't they just wear watches. Why don't they just wear watches. Why don't they just wear watches.

The words echoed in my head.

Why don't they just wear watches. Why don't they just wear watches. Why don't they just wear watches.

With every echo, another chunk of my teenage arrogance was torn away and used to form one undeniable, inescapable image.

You Are Dumb

Never once in the at least two dozen times I had watched Hudson Hawk did it occur to me that these supposed master thieves are actually the worst thieves to have ever thieved. If you're planning a heist and a fellow thief says you should all get some watches, and then you suggest singing a jaunty tune instead, they're taking away your thieves guild card, along with your guild health plan. In that moment I realized that singing while stealing is the stupidest thing I had ever fucking heard and I totally believed it could work a second earlier and all seconds before that. I never questioned it until I had one of my best friends staring me down with nothing but pity in his eyes.

My world was smoldering. I saw the image:

You Are Dumb

Just because you learn a lesson doesn't mean you'll forever abide by it. For example, even after that life-altering moment of truth, I still walked out of that beautiful video store with a VHS copy of Hudson Hawk, and I used what little money I had left to buy Hackers, too. But I didn't walk out of that video store with only two awful movies on a soon-to-be-outdated form of media. I walked out with two shitty movies -- and enlightenment. Maybe that natural teenage arrogance that came packed as a complimentary gift with my set of pubes was unearned. That realization hurt, but I've carried it with me ever since. I'm not perfect. But knowing I'm dumb softens the blow. I'm never too hurt when I fail. Why would I be? I'm dumb. I know that I know nothing. Why not embrace how little I know and work to erase it -- even though I never truly will -- rather than be shamed by it?

United Artists

But I'll totally feel ashamed for liking this one.

Incredible films are made and released every day. Films with top-notch acting, impeccable screenwriting, and unrivaled direction. Films that move me, stir something inside of me. I will watch them, but I won't watch them again. So give me Bruce Willis riding an ambulance stretcher down a New York bridge, pulling and turning it to weave through heavy traffic, as he tosses some change into a toll booth from about 30 feet away, thus raising the toll stick thing and allowing him to escape from two thugs driving the ambulance -- an ambulance that then, for no reason, flips and explodes, because I guess the writers (one of whom was Bruce Willis) had no idea how to remove the thug characters from the script so, fuck it, blow 'em up.

Why do I want that? Because I am dumb. I know that I know nothing. It's a good starting point.

You can look on in awe as Luis be dumb on Twitter and Tumblr.

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