Hawk the Slayer (1980) Review



Hawk the Slayer has some neat characters, but the slow pacing, mismatched soundtrack and inconsistent effects hurt it.

Plot: Hawk (John Terry) goes on a quest to save a convent from his evil brother, Voltan (Jack Palance)

Review: Hawk the Slayer is one weird movie. On the one hand, it has some engaging characters and Jack Palance at his scene-chewing best. Conversely, you have plenty of problems in the pacing and artistry department. It’s a pretty frustrating combination.

Let’s start with the good – the characters are engaging and, for the most part, enjoyable. Hawk himself is non-descript – the square-jawed “good guy.” His is a revenge story, though it feels more like he’s the good guy because the plot needs one. Jack Palance, though, is excellent as always as the head baddie. His look is unique, and his way of whispering his lines is perfect for his character.

Hawk’s companions are equally charismatic – the dim-witted giant, clever dwarf and stoic elf. The dwarf and the giant engage in hilarious conversations around food, and it feels like the writers tried to flesh out the secondary characters. That helps when your leading character is rather wooden.

There are also some terrific matte paintings to display the exteriors of the buildings. The designs give the film an otherworldly dimension that fits with the story they’re trying to tell. The interiors are impressive; the film generally does a great job of making you believe the world the characters reside in exists.

That’s the good – now let’s see the not-so-good. I have an issue with the pacing of this movie. It starts well enough, with the sinister Voltan killing his father in the first 5 minutes and then leading a savage attack on the countryside. A one-handed man finds our hero, who finds companions for their adventure and then – a lot of nothing. Sitting around the convent for what seemed like forever. At one point, I believed that Voltan would never re-appear in the film, and we’d be left with the dwarf tricking the giant again into believing he was eating something he wasn’t. That whole section of the story was played out far too long – we knew Hawk and Voltan would fight at the end, and the filmmaker needed to find a faster way of getting there.

Then there’s the soundtrack. I wasn’t a fan. There’s this whole disco vibe to it that just doesn’t go with a swords-and-horses epic. I half-expected for the cast of Fame to appear and start singing that they’re going to live forever and to remember their names. Every time I heard the score, it was jarring and took me out of the film.

The effects were also kind of weak at times – the burning of the dwarf on the raft was mounted in such a way that the dwarf never seemed in danger. Then there was the whole effect with the shooting of arrows – they just rewound the film and looped it fast. While it gave the impression of the fighter reloading their weapon quickly, it was utterly unconvincing and, again, took me out of the film.

While Hawk the Slayer wasn’t a terrible movie, and overall, I enjoyed it, it definitely had flaws. The characters save the film for the most part, but I feel this would have been a better film in more capable hands.