An Invitation and a Warning: Who Remembers Hawk Jones?
I can’t recall the number of times as an adult I’ll revisit something I prized as a kid and ask myself, “What was I thinking?!” It’s to be expected really. Our tastes change as we age and there are some things we grow out of. Well most of us anyways. But there are also a host of things if not most things that stick with us and never let go. Of course there’s also the third mysterious category which consists of things we loved as kids and then somehow forgot about in our formative years only to come back to as adults and fall in love with all over again. This happened to me recently.
I’d been doing random Google searches trying to track down the name of a movie I remembered renting countless times as a kid. It had an all kids cast and was a story about a rebel cop and his partner taking down a mob boss. The film I was trying to find was eluding me no matter what detailed description I searched. Finally there it was, Hawk Jones. I mean honestly, since most of my searches were comprised of “all kids cast… shooting guns… crime caper,” and the like, it’s a wonder I found it at all.
I was bummed to find out it was never widely released on DVD, but sort of proud to find out that the team who put it out, brothers Richard & Tor Lowry, had held tight to the rights and were releasing the VHS transferred on DVD through their website. A Bare bones release, yes-not even a main menu on it, but worth every penny I’d realize, five minutes in. One of the things so transfixing about Hawk Jones is that it’s not a kids movie though in the video store I frequented as a kid there it was perched in the kids section. The entire cast is made up of kids an average age of 8, but the themes are all adult. It’s the sort of film that couldn’t be made today without an uproar from concerned parents.
Within a few minutes I was glued to the screen, I couldn’t look away. Memories of sitting, chin perched on fists, laying on my stomach in the middle of my living room as a kid, my little feet swinging wildly in excitement came flooding back as I watched the action unfold. I immediately noted as an adult how very adult everything was. I figured that maybe the reason nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me as a child is because I was a very seasoned viewer. I had been watching horror movies since age 3, and I’d been watching Saturday Night Live about as long- even if I didn’t understand all the jokes I was learning about very adult themes. Needless to say, seeing kids blow away other kids (even without gore and brutality) wasn’t something that phased me.
My sidebar conversation about all of this is to dissuade the argument that kids who watch violence as kids are disaffected. Quite the opposite. Unlike most kids who are just plopped down in front of the TV, my mom made it abundantly clear to me from a young age that what I saw in movies and TV was make believe, none of it was real. So even if Freddy Krueger scared me, I knew he wasn’t real. So same rules apply, I knew these kids weren’t really dying, they were just playing around. Now as an adult, I laughed even harder at some of the lines being thrown around by these kids.
However the most impressive thing about Hawk Jones isn’t the fact that it’s a very mature film being acted by kids, but the talent of the kids in the film. I was mesmerized by their skill at delivering lines, some of them not for the faint of heart. The situations these kids have to traverse are spectacular. Not only do we have a mob boss, but we have a speakeasy scene complete with a showgirl (kids drinking milk like it was gin), a soap opera scene that revolves around cheating, multiple shoot-outs including a hostage, scenes at a police station with a hardened chief of police, I could go on and on, but that leaves the fun out of you experiencing it for yourself.
This is the kind of film that might be best enjoyed with a group of people, but even on your own you can see the virtue and you can laugh long and hard. It’s brilliant. And it’s the kind of film that couldn’t be made today. In a heartbeat filmmakers would have all sorts of protestors on their back. Hell, the parents of the kids might even have some charges to answer for. It makes me miss my childhood, when kids were given some credit to know the difference between real and make believe, and movies like this could be made without an uproar and it could be seen for what it is- entertainment.