Cliffhanger (1993)


Suits, Socks, 100 Million Dollars – The Usual Stuff

Today’s movie is in a much similar vein as the previously reviewed Speed.  It’s another classic action movie that some may consider a little cheesy, but in the very least should be a lot of fun.  Unlike Speed, I’m pretty positive that I had seen this one all the way through already, but I didn’t remember it that clearly.  All I really remember is who was in the movie, and that the opening scene of this movie was classically parodied in one of my favorite comedies, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.  I knew that I would probably end up liking Ace Ventura better as a movie, but let’s see how the original scene holds up in my review of Cliffhanger, written by John Long, Michael France, and Sylvester Stallone, directed by Renny Harlin, and starring Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Ralph Waite, Leon Robinson, Craig Fairbrass, Paul Winfield, and Michelle Joyner.

Starting off with a scene stolen right out of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, rescue ranger Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) climbs a mountain, looking not for a raccoon, but his friend Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) and Hal’s girlfriend Sarah (Michelle Joyner).  With the help of Gabe’s girlfriend Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner) and pilot Frank (Ralph Waite), they put a safety line going between 2 mountains.  Hal easily gets across the gap, but Sarah is more jittery about it.  Halfway through, her harness breaks.  Gabe does everything he can to save her, but she plummets to her death.  Eight months later, a group of criminals rob a jet of $100 million from the US Department of Treasury, but shit goes wrong, causing the plane to crash on the mountain with the three cases of money lost on various locations of the mountain.  The leader of the group, former Military Intelligence member Eric Qualen (John Lithgow), is less than pleased with the man who betrayed the Treasury, Richard Travers (Rex Linn).  Qualen’s lady friend, Kristel (Caroline Goodall), calls in for a rescue.  Hal gets the call and heads out to rescue them, not knowing what he’s walking in to.  Jessie tries to convince the recently returned Gabe to join him, but Gabe is hesitant due to Hal’s anger with him and his own fear of going back on the mountain, but he begrudgingly agrees.  Once they reach the criminals, Hal and Gabe are apprehended and made to lead the criminals to the money.

I liked Ace Ventura better, but this was still a pretty fun movie.  They called themselves Cliffhanger, and they definitely delivered on that promise.  There’s lots of hanging from cliffs, lots of shootouts and fist fights, lots of cheesy dialogue, a menacing bad guy, and all the things you’d want out of such a movie.  I got a little bothered by the opening scene of the movie, although it was a pretty great scene altogether.  It’s a very memorable scene with a good deal of tension, and sets up the tale of anger and forgiveness between Sly and Rooker.  They didn’t make very much out of this anger though.  There were a couple angry words from Rooker and a little bit of shoving, but he gets over it pretty quick into the movie when Sly is actually in danger.  The thing that bothered me about the opening scene is I don’t know why it needed to happen like that.  It’s obvious why it happened from a movie making point of view, but why did they decide to run the line between two mountains when they probably could have just hovered above them in the helicopter and reeled them in one by one?  This would’ve made the scene pointless, but they didn’t play that heavily on Rooker being mad at Sly, or even on Sly’s decision to not go up the mountain again, but it bothered me that they seemingly decided to do something pointless that got someone killed.  Still, it’s a great scene.  The rest of the movie doesn’t waste much time with story and dialogue, but it remains entertaining throughout.  One of the things I thought of as being interesting was that Sly took part in the writing, but really didn’t make himself too much of a badass.  He got his ass kicked a pretty good amount, most memorably by the guy from Cool Runnings, Leon Robinson.  Sure, Sly eventually won by body pressing him into a stalagtite, but I would generally expect someone who is as big of a jock as Sly would not be keen on letting his butt get kicked.

The performances were pretty solid for a big dumb action movie.  Sly was in great shape for this part, being in not so rare form with muscles that were ripped to shreds, and that was about all his part really called for.  He was also still able to articulate at this point, so you could actually understand what he was saying.  He pulled off his action and his suspense, and didn’t really do a lot of emotional stuff, but pulled off the slightly emotional parts he had to.  John Lithgow was pretty great in this movie as well.  He was more of a mastermind and didn’t get his hands dirty so much, but was still pretty intimidating.  He didn’t really kill anyone himself except for his female associate that he may or may not have been intimately acquainted with, but it showed that this guy wasn’t fuckin’ around.  He added a lot more quality to the dialogue that probably wouldn’t have been there in the hands of another actor.  Rooker was pretty good as well.  I thought he didn’t seem to be taking the loss of his girlfriend nearly as harshly as Sly did, and that was a little weird, but he still did good.  Janine Turner didn’t do much beyond the typical damsel in distress stuff though.  Leon Robinson’s character was a pretty imposing figure, but I didn’t like him very much.  What kind of bad guy actually says that he’s only going to ask a question three times?  I know that a lot of bad guys actually give them three tries to answer the question, but you don’t tell them that.  Then they know how long they can wait before you kill them for not answering it!

This movie definitely holds up as fun times.  Sure, it’s kind of stupid and a few things don’t make sense to me, but the action is great and the movie is entertaining all the way through.  The performances aren’t anything spectacular, but they work for the movie.  And Lithgow was the bomb.  I streamed this here movie off of the Netflix.  It’s a pretty popular movie, so you may have already seen it, but if you haven’t it’s a good time to check it out streaming.  If you’ve seen it, it’s still fun, so check it out again.  It’s also probably cheap enough that it belongs in any respectable collection.  Cliffhanger gets “Your friend just had the most expensive funeral in history” out of “Do you know what real love is?  Sacrifice…”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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