A low-key British import, THE HAWK is a grim tale of psychological suspense revolving around a woman who suspects her husband may be a serial killer.
Anne Marsh (Helen Mirren) is a middle-class house wife with a dreary husband, Stephen (George Costigan), and two young children. Though hardly the stuff of fairy tales, her life is sheltered and undemanding; Stephen make a decent living, the children are healthy and apparently well-adjusted,
their home is neat and comfortable. That she's oddly skittish and given to overreaction is attributed to a long past history of mental illness; though she's able to cope, it takes little more than a botched barbecue to rattle her.
Anne's life begins to unravel when the seeds of horrific suspicion, planted by tabloid media reports of the brutal serial rapist/killer they've dubbed "The Hawk" (he gouges out his victims' eyes), take root in her mind. Why do Stephen's out of town business trips always seem to coincide with a
murder? What happened to the hammer that used to be in the toolshed? Why does Stephen's brother Ken (Owen Teale) leer at Anne so? What do the pair of them get up to when they go out on the town together? Could one or both of the brothers be concealing a twisted secret beneath their conventional
Anne confides her suspicions to a friend, Norma (Melanie Till), and then to the police, who add them to the overwhelming mountain of tips from nervous wives and girlfriends. Anne vacillates; the evidence is slim, the details unnerving, but could her husband really be a psychotic killer? Despite
suggestions that perhaps she's having a recurrence of her old troubles--the explanation favored by her condescending mother-in-law (Rosemary Leach)--Anne throws Stephen out, and when he returns, she kills him. After her arrest, she comes to the awful conclusion that she was wrong, that Ken was the
real killer, but her first instinct is proved right, and her actions vindicated.
A muted character study produced for British television, THE HAWK covers much the same territory as Donald Cammell's WHITE OF THE EYE, played out against a claustrophobically commonplace backdrop. While Cammell's tale of a woman haunted by the notion that she doesn't really know the man she
married at all was set in a raw, desolate (and inevitably mythopoetic) stretch of the American West, director David Hayman and writer Peter Ransley unleash their horrors in a far more bourgeois arena, and Anne's escalating suspicions, though grim, are only a bit grimmer than her stifled,
The film opens with a stunning sequence: a young woman driving in the rain, her two children in the car, is sidelined by engine trouble and accepts a stranger's offer of help. The next morning, the two boys are still in the car and her body is sprawled grotesquely in a field. The sheer horror of
her transformation from harried mother to lifeless carrion is palpable, a reminder that even if Anne is overreacting to Stephen's creepy churlishness, the world can be an awful place. Mirren, listlessly pretty and nervously intelligent, is the film's center. THE HAWK rises and falls on whether or
not audiences empathize with Anne, and Mirren makes her awkwardly convincing. A dinner outing with Norma and her new boyfriend, a sophisticated adulterer, is positively painful: already laboring under the strain of her suspicions, Anne is overdressed, out of her intellectual depth and thoroughly
mortified by Stephen's drunken boorishness. The film's double twist ending contains one twist too many, but overall it's a well-made and intelligent diversion. (Adult situations, alcohol abuse, nudity, violence.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: A low-key British import, THE HAWK is a grim tale of psychological suspense revolving around a woman who suspects her husband may be a serial killer. Anne Marsh (Helen Mirren) is a middle-class house wife with a dreary husband, Stephen (George Costigan)… (more)