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Cliffhanger
2 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Renny Harlin

Written By:
Sylvester Stallone, Michael France

Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Leon, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, Craig Fairbrass, Michelle Joyner, Max Perlich, Zach Grenier, Vyto Ruginis, Don S. Davis, John Finn, Bruce McGill, Rosemary Dunsmore, Kim Robillard, Jeff McCarthy, Derek Hoxby

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Cliffhanger (1993)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
May 10th, 2009

Some action movies are only as good as their villain, but thankfully, 'Cliffhanger' has a great one. This is, I think, one of Stallone's best, certainly one of his most enjoyable, in part because of Renny Harlin, a well-worn vet of the genre, who really knows how to frame and execute an action sequence, but, the main attraction is John Lithgow, as Eric Qualen, Stallone's smart and ruthless adversary. Lithgow is always a perfect match for villains, like John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper. His Qualen heads a team of criminals, looking to intercept a Treasury Department jet carrying $100 million worth of unmarked bills.

The scheme is clever, and was probably thought to be airtight, especially since Qualen is being assisted by one of the agents onboard, Travers (Rex Linn). Of course, something goes wrong, and the three cases full of money fall into the snow-covered mountains below. Qualen intends to retrieve them, at any cost. He cares only about two things; himself, and the money. His entire crew is expendable, and they seem to recognize this, except maybe for Kristel (Caroline Goodall), who apparently thinks that Qualen loves her.

Stallone is Gabe Walker, former member of a Rocky Mountain rescue squad, an expert climber. In the opening scenes, we see how his friendship with fellow climber Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) sours after a tragic accident, and Hal blames Gabe for the death of his girlfriend, Sarah (Michelle Joyner). Gabe is romantically linked to Jessie (Janine Turner), and makes a surprise return after an 8-month absence. Qualen forces Gabe and Hal to help him track down the cases.

Of course, Qualen plans on killing them, once they have served their purpose, but Gabe proves unkillable, surviving all sorts of peril, and eliminating each of Qualen's henchman, until only Qualen remains for that final encounter. Stallone's acting is rather effective here, compared to many of his other roles.

This is was, in a sense, a comeback for Stallone, after Rambo and Rocky; it did well at the box office, and spawned a video game, like Demolition Man and Judge Dredd, the game, however, was awful. Lithgow speaks with a calm, cold, accented voice; barely showing emotion, which is appropriate when dealing with a man as cruel as Qualen, a man who murders without hesitation.

The stunts are impressive, particularly the initial hijacking of the Treasury jet, and often intense. Cinematography is quite stunning, as well, with lots of panoramic shots of the Colorado Rockies, which I think serve as a terrific setting for an action picture, creating a sense of constant danger. For another great, quintessentially Lithgow bad guy, check out Ricochet with Denzel Washington.

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