On Rotten Tomatoes, the film had a rating of 26%, based on 34 reviews, as of August, 2016. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 17 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
In the Chicago Tribune, Terry Clifford observed that "the end result is being thrown up on selected screens this weekend, and the suspicion that this was a pooch turns out to be undeniably correct. Boring and banal, overwrought and undercooked, Hudson Hawk is beyond bad."
As Kenneth Turan wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
The saddest thing about Hudson Hawk is that director Lehmann and co-screenwriter Waters were previously responsible for the clever, audacious "Heathers," a film that represented all that is most promising about American film, while this one represents all that is most moribund and retrograde. Perhaps they both earned enough money here so that they won't be tempted to indulge themselves in similar big-budget fiascoes. Here's hoping.
As Jack Mathews observed in Film Comment:
Hudson Hawk is a terrible movie, and deserves the cold shoulder it has received at the box office. But being bad doesn't always explain the failure of big, star-driven pictures. In the vernacular of Hollywood marketing, these movies tend to be "review-proof," meaning that critics can carpet-bomb them with all the armor-piercing adjectives they can muster and the beasts will not fall. Think of the Rambo and Rocky sequels, all those Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal movies . . . the reviews ricocheted off their thick hides.
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film a "two thumbs down" review on their At the Movies TV show. Ebert described the movie as a complete disaster: "every line starts from zero and gets nowhere". Siskel's review was marginally more positive saying that Willis had a few funny moments and furthermore that the film may have been salvaged if Willis and Aello were the only zany characters against a cast of straight men as opposed to a cast full of overacting where everyone tried too hard to make each line funny.
Variety called the film "a relentlessly annoying clay duck that crash-lands in a sea of wretched excess and silliness. Those willing to check their brains at the door may find sparse amusement." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said of the film, "A movie this unspeakably awful can make an audience a little crazy. You want to throw things, yell at the actors, beg them to stop." James Brundage of AMC filmcritic said the film was "so implausible and so over the top that it lets inconsistency roll off like water on a duck's back." Janet Maslin in the New York Times called the film "a colossally sour and ill-conceived misfire" and denounced the film for "smirky, mean-spirited cynicism." Writing in The Washington Post, Joe Brown said, "To say this megamillion Bruce Willis vehicle doesn't fly is understatement in the extreme... Hudson Hawk offers a klutzy, charmless hero, and wallows dully in limp slapstick and lowest common denominator crudeness." Chris Hicks wrote in the Salt Lake City Deseret News, "What is most amazing is the pervasive silliness that has the cast acting like fools without ever getting a laugh from the audience. It's hard to imagine a major, big-budget movie that could come along this year and be worse than Hudson Hawk, a solid contender for the longest 95 minutes in movie history. Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly called the film "a fiasco sealed with a smirk."
It received three Razzie Awards for Worst Director (Michael Lehmann), Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture with additional nominations for Worst Actor (Bruce Willis), Worst Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant) and Worst Supporting Actress (Sandra Bernhard). In his autobiography, With Nails, Richard E. Grant diarises the production of the film in detail, noting the ad hoc nature of the production and extensive rewriting and replotting during the actual filming. Willis went on to become one of the leading box-office stars of the 1990s, but has not made any further forays into scriptwriting.
The film was also a box office bomb, partly because the film was intended as an absurd comedy, yet was marketed as an action film one year after the success of Die Hard 2. When the film came to home video the tag line "Catch The Excitement, Catch The Adventure, Catch The Hawk" was changed to "Catch The Adventure, Catch The Laughter, Catch The Hawk".