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Cliffhanger

What he said:

He

The last time I watched this movie, I had had just seen The Expendables for the first time. It was Sly’s attempt to recreate the magic of action movies from the 80s and 90s. While I thought it was ok, it pales in comparison to some classics from the genre; like Cliffhanger for example.  

Anyways, Cliffhanger is about hot shot mountain climber and rescue ranger extraordinaire, Gabe Walker (played by Stallone). Gabe is pretty much the man around town until tragedy strikes. He skips town and returns almost a year later; only to collect some things before leaving town for good.

Cliffhanger

One of those things is his estranged girlfriend Jessie (played by Janine Turner).  After the incident, Gabe just couldn’t be around town, so he picked up some bare essentials and took off. He was overcome with guilt and has only come back to clean out his house and ask Jessie to leave with him and start a new life. Gabe actually has a new job and home in another state and just wants to collect the last remnants of his old life, so that he can move on for good. Jessie is not happy about this and has no intentions of leaving Colorado.

Cliffhanger

Before they can resolve the issue, the mountain rescue group – and Gabe’s former employer – gets a call about some people in distress. Jessie begs Gabe to help. He’s hesitant because it involved partnering with another rescue ranger – and former best friend – Hal (Michael Rooker). Hal is the reason Gabe left town and he doesn’t want to reopen old wounds, but reluctantly agrees because the situation is dire.

There’s one problem though. The rescue call is completely bogus. It was made by super baddie Eric Qualen (John Lithgow). Qualen is a former Military Intelligence Officer who has turned into a high-end thief. He is leading a team of mercenaries on a scheme meant to make them all very rich. Long story short, they hijack a plane that belongs to the U.S. Treasury Department, they ran into a little snag, and crash-landed in the mountains. They lost the money and need guides to help them find it; hence the bogus call.

Cliffhanger

What they didn’t plan on was running into encountering Gabe and his awesomeness.   

If Gabe and Hal are to survive this ordeal, they are going to have to put aside their differences and work together; which is easier said than done because Hal really hates Gabe and Gabe can barely look Hal in the eyes.

One thing I really have to give this movie credit for is the beating Stallone’s character takes. This was a time in Stallone’s career where he was in the best shape of his life, so every character he plays is super veiny…err I mean ripped. Gabe is in killer shape, even better shape than some of the enemies he faces, but he’s going up against highly trained individuals. Gabe knows how to climb mountains and rescue people, they know how to maim, kill, and do all kinds of terrible things. Gabe is definitely the hero of the movie, but he’s not indestructible, nor should he be. Nine times out of ten, the person with training is going to win the fight, so I appreciated an effort at realism. Despite *spoiler alert* ultimately winning, the film does a good job of showing even a tough guy can get his ass kicked when up against people who know what they’re doing. Kudos to the writers, director, and Stallone for putting egos aside for the sake of the story.

Stallone is great as Gabe, the damaged and vulnerable hero. He has just enough backstory, and is just enough of an underdog, but he’s still got the home field advantage, so it all meshes nicely.

John Lithgow is an amazing actor. I don’t think I’ve seen someone who can play funny, sympathetic, or completely sadistic the way he can. He is a true chameleon. His portrayal of Qualen is a blast. This guy is cold, calculating, and unpredictable.  He’s the kind of guy who always has a plan, but when things go awry, not only is he not phased, he adapts quickly and aggressively. He’s just plain mean too.

Cliffhanger

He’s got a whole slew of henchmen too. His lead goon is some really pissed off guy named Kynette (played by a guy named Leon). He’s lean, mean, and an ass-kicking machine. This guy is the muscle of the group. His girlfriend Kristel (Caroline Goodall) is as ruthless as he is. There’s also a guy in their crew who is a former soccer player and so he love to kick people. You have to love the thought process that goes into creating that comic book type of bad guy. He also has an uneasy partnership with Richard Travers (Rex Linn), a U.S. Treasury Agent that helped them hijack the plane. Their interactions are quite amusing.

Michael Rooker is pretty awesome Gabe’s sidekick Hal. He’s a ballsy fella and gets mouthy with the bad guys quite often.

Janine Turner plays a pretty good sidekick/damsel in distress. She was big in the 90s with Northern Exposure and all and I’m surprised she didn’t land more movie roles. She wasn’t mind-blowingly good or anything, but was perfectly fine and considering her popularity at that time, I’m just curious why she didn’t get more work.

Prognosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was brought to you by the He on January 7, 2010. It was updated on June 28, 2014.

Cliffhanger

 

What she said:

He

What do you get when you mix human growth hormone with rock climbing, Cliffhanger, a classic early ‘90s cheesefest that also happens to be a pretty good action movie.  The basic premise is this, Sly Stallone, burdened by his tragic past as a rescue climber in the Rocky Mountains, gets dragged into an evil plot to steal lots of money that has gone terribly wrong.  He must thwart the thugs, led by John Lithgow, before they kill him, his former best friend, and his love interest, and also ensure that the bad guys don’t get away with millions of dollars.

Cliffhanger

Prepare yourself for lots of veiny muscles, dangling from mountainsides, and blood.  The villains are laughably over-the-top at times, but the action is so fun that it makes the entire movie enjoyable.  I was super impressed by the special effects; it appears as if everything was actually filmed using stuntmen, as this was before CGI became mainstream.  In fact, I read on Wikipedia that this movie is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the costliest aerial stunt ever performed.  The film makes rockclimbing seem like the coolest thing ever.  I’m totally considering taking it up as a hobby.  There are some pretty intense moments in the flick, but you’ll never doubt that the good guys will prevail. 

Men should love this one, particularly if they’re into throwback action films.  Ladies, you’ll probably be able to tolerate it as well.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up. 

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