Ladyhawke Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Released: 1985

Ladyhawke is a lush romantic fantasy film that both sexes can equally enjoy, for it contains a dashing hero and fancy swordplay wrapped within an intriguing and tragic story of two lovers that suffer from a vile curse placed upon them. By day she is a hawk, and by night he is a wolf. Together they travel, yet never again can they become one or experience human companionship.

That is, until fate introduces a shifty pickpocket with a heart of gold. With this thief's assistance, as well as that of an old drunken priest, there exists a splinter of hope for the cursed couple.

Richard Donner's epic film Ladyhawke tells the story of Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) and Isabeau d'Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer), two upper class citizens that were madly in love with each other and lived a happy life together until the Bishop of Anquila (John Wood), who was himself madly infatuated with the lovely Isabeau and jealous of their happiness, invoked a curse that would forever separate the lovers. Due to the curse, each sunrise Isabeau transforms into a hawk, while each sunset Navarre transforms into a wolf.

One day the wandering Navarre takes notice of a young pickpocket by the name of Phillipe "the Mouse" Gaston (Matthew Broderick), who becomes cornered by the Bishop's guard after having escaped from the notorious Anquila dungeons. Navarre intercedes and rescues the young thief, but there's a price for his assistance. Phillipe was the first person to ever escape Anquila, so he wishes the thief to smuggle him into the city so that he may exact his bitter revenge upon the Bishop that destroyed his life.

But soon after their partnership begins, a new ray of hope pierces through the clouds of despair. What if the undefeatable curse could actually be broken via a ceremony during an upcoming eclipse? Aided by the slinky thief as well as a boozing priest that actually discovered the potential cure for the curse, Navarre and Isabeau return to Anquila to try and reclaim their happiness and future together.

There's a lot going for this film beyond the interesting plot, such as the very impressive choreography. Ladyhawke features gorgeous sets, majestic horses (and other animals), rich clothing and armor, and authentic swordplay. It's clear the director and his crew set out to create a visual feast for the eyes; a cheap B-movie Ladyhawke is not.

I became a fan of Rutger Hauer after witnessing his sinfully manic performance in an 80's horror flick called the Hitcher, and his subdued performance as the honorable ex-captain of the guard in this film does not disappoint either. Hauer is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood; a statement Ladyhawke will further show to be true.

Matthew Broderick played the crafty pickpocket to the hilt. Although I was initially concerned that his performance would end up being a bit too hammy for my tastes, I really grew to like the character throughout the film. He struck the right balance of comedic relief and sincerity, making his character a fairly believable weasel.

John Wood gave a wonderful performance as the menacing Bishop of Anquila. It's easy for lesser actors to turn an evil bishop/sorcerer into an over the top caricature, but Wood avoids this pitfall and lends Navarre's nemesis a quiet, haughty intensity that is exactly what one would expect from a medieval tyrant. But just underneath that convincing exterior lays the pain of unrequited love, and as the final confrontation takes place Wood reflects the turmoil that is eating the Bishop's soul through his eyes and visage.

Michelle Pfeiffer was physically in her prime during this role, and lent her character a haunting beauty. Unfortunately I found her performance to be lacking – it seemed rather flat and dispassionate. She was the only main character I felt was simply acting, rather than becoming one with their role. This doesn't pose too much of a problem since her scenes are pretty minimal. Most of the events take place during the day, so the cameras give the majority of their attention to the dashing swordsman.

Permit me to take a quick diversion from the review and briefly mention the movie's rating. Ladyhawke is rated PG-13 and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Beyond a little bit of violence, there was no objectionable content in this film that I could find. I would have no reservations allowing even the youngest of children to watch this movie.

The story is romantic without being sappy, and the action is exciting without being over the top or graphic. This perfect blend of genres makes Ladyhawke a fantasy that all sexes and ages can enjoy.

Movie rating: 8 stars

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