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Cliffhanger (Arrow Recommends)

Cliffhanger (Arrow Recommends)
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Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site.

PLOT: A group of blood thirsty thieves lose a shitload of stolen cash in the Rocky Mountains. They kidnap two rescue climbers (Stallone and Rooker). Before you can say "Die Hard on a mountain" - our two climbers turn the table on their captors and a deadly chase of cat, kill, kill, kill and mouse ensues.

LOWDOWN: It’s Christmas time and this year I decided to go back to my lesser-seen installment from Renny Harlin’s Unofficial Christmas Action Trilogy. It’s unofficial because – well  - I’m the one that calls it his Christmas Action Trilogy.   So instead of tapping the two set “during Christmas” Die Hard 2 and The Long Kiss Goodnight I decided to re-visit Harlin’s 1993 action thriller CLIFFHANGER (GET THE BLU RAY HERE), starring Sylvester Stallone and genre favs Michael Rooker and John Lithgow. Granted, this one is not set during the Holidays, but there’s enough ice and snow on hand to make it feel f*cking festive to me. Lets climb this bad boy. See what's on top!

Much respect to Sylvester Stallone, a guy that practices what he preaches as he always gets back up after being knocked down. Following a subpar stint Box Office wise (Rocky V, Oscar, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot) a lot was riding on Cliffhanger for Sly and thankfully, not only did the film come out fantastic, it was also a smash hit, giving Stallone’s career the boost it needed at the time. The plot was simple and to the point. Bad guys want stolen money so they kidnap good guys - good guys want to escape the bad guys - they got at it. Toss in there the merciless natural elements as an added threat and a mucho high body-count and zingo! You got a well-concocted action bonanza.  

Crom bless Renny Harlin – not sure if its due to his genre background or not (Prison - NOES 4) but all of his early action pictures had one thing in common: they were violent as f*ck. Cliffhanger continued that trend. It should be stabbed that the original cut of the film was way more brutal than the final product. Alas the MPAA were scissor-happy back then and the flick was shaved down of some of its red grub (like not seeing the bullet hits on the second base jumper... only on this watch did I realize that he was shot). But thankfully, even toned down, the R rated cut was still pretty grisly. Lots of ghastly squibs, brutal fights, shots to the heads and one "death by icicle" that always carves a grin on my face ( Harlin loves them icicle kills – see Die Hard 2).  It surely helped the violence quota that the bad guys here seemed to get a kick out of whacking anybody and everybody that fell on their path - even if they weren't an obstacle. It was almost comical! These guys (and one gal) seriously didn’t give a flying shite.

Which brings me to the cast! Stallone was in action-man top form, conveying the emotional turmoil of the character in a moving fashion while excelling at everything that was physical (he took the film cause he wanted to beat his fear of heights hence did most of his own stunts – respect). Michael Rooker was on the ball as always as the bitter mountaineer who loves to yell “nooooooo” and run in slow motion. While Janine Turner was efficient as our heroine - her character was thinly written though - she didn't have much to play with. As for the villains, well, we had quite the motley crew of misfits at play. All psychos and loving it! And even though Rex Lyinn, Caroline Goodall, Leon and Craig Fairbrass all gave colorful and gripping performances, this was John Lithgow’s show through and through. His sarcastic, ice cold yet charismatic turn as the evil leader was one for the books! I kept laughing out lout at his reactions when shite would go wrong. So f*cking jaded. Loved him! 

Add to all that varied death defying practical stunts that blew my mind (the climbing scenes often had my jaw drop), an epic score by Trevor Jones (he also beautifully scored Last of the Mohicans) that often sounded like the Predator theme, all kinds of clever lines (loved this one: “You want to kill me, don't you Tucker? Well, get a number and get in line.”), stand out visual panache by Mr. Harlin, expertly staged actions scenes, random suspenseful bits and mucho ambitious camera work that gave me an eyeful and you get a top notch action thriller that got the job done 100%!

Any qualms? Minor. Lots of the happenings were farfetched and Stallone’s character was almost superman in terms of how he kept surviving – but is that really a bad thing? I know the kind of movie I’m watching over here. Moreover some of the matte painting work looked a tad dated, but didn't bother me much. And Janine Turner's role could have been beefed up. That's it - all I can think of.

Personally, CLIFFHANGER was almost a Zen flick to sit through. It unfolded at an even pace, the snow/mountain scenery was mesmerizing to gawk at and the chain of events was always engaging. It was an effortless watch if I’ve ever seen one! Ideal movie to clock if you're hungover and all you wanna do is lie down and veg.

It's too bad that we never got a sequel. One was actually in the works at some point. It was called ]Cliffhanger 2: The Dam, which would have seen Gabe battle terrorists who took over he Hoover Dam. Alas it never got off the ground. So the best we can hope for now is that the unrated cut finds its way under our X-mas tree some day... until then though this OG cut still hit the motherf*cking spot! Stand out movie that oh so delivered on all fronts!

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