Saturday, March 06, 2004

Cliffhanger (1993)

A Guilty Pleasure
By Nicholas Stix

Since I am writing this review, I am also publicly confessing to having spent two hours watching Cliffhanger. After this, nothing I suffer in life can be a humiliation.

This movie received four Razzie nominations: Worst picture of the year, worst screenplay (Sylvester Stallone), worst supporting actress (Janine Turner) and worst supporting actor (John Lithgow). There are a couple of injustices here: Stallone was denied his rightful, annual Razzie nomination for worst actor. The jury must have been stacked with Stallone fans that year. And I enjoyed Lithgow’s over-the-top turn as the leader of the crooks.

But you can’t argue with Janine Turner’s (then in Northern Exposure) nomination: I could have given a better and sexier performance as a female, in spite of being a bit, shall we say, well-nourished, and having a mustache.

This movie made a ton of money, which also makes sense. It’s entertaining. Director Renny Harlin knows how to make action thrillers. In this one, the Treasury Department is transporting over $150 million in $1000 bills via plane; a band of crooks aims to rob the couriers. The money ends up on the snowy side of a mountain, so the crooks kidnap world-class mountain rescue experts Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rooker, to track it down.

The cinematography is breathtaking, the stunts are truly death-defying, and some of the actors are good, most notably Rooker, Ralph Waite (as a rescuer), Lithgow and Rex Linn (as a treasury agent).

Since we live in a therapeutic society, I can’t take responsibility for my actions -- it was all my 3-year-old son’s fault. The movie came on late at night, after he had woken up (and while I was supposed to be working), and he insisted we see it together. It turns out, his judgment was excellent, as Cliffhanger is perfectly suited for the sensibility of a three-year-old boy.

In case you have too much money on your hands, you can order this from a video company. If your neighbors see you taking the video package from your mailbox, you can just say, “Oh, I thought I’d finally give Gone with the Wind a shot.”

Should you decide, instead, to rent Cliffhanger from a video store, you might try a trench coat, dark glasses, and a hat pulled down low on your face. Or as with other pornographic films, you could say to yourself, “What the hell, my neighbors are buying the same trash,” and go in as you are.

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