Cliffhanger (1993) Review

After ceremoniously flicking up IMDB when I sat down to write this review, I saw that there were plans for a remake of “Cliffhanger”. Even more surprising was the article indicating that the project is actually moving forward nicely, why… Why are they doing this? You’d have thought Hollywood would pick movies that were already good and attempt to just rehash that success. I’d like to think the premise is noble and they genuinely want to take an idea that they thought had promise but just didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped, but I can’t bring myself to believe that. The day I see it, if I’m wrong I’ll get down on my knees, apologise profusely, and write a review criticising myself for everyone to see.

Signed: Oliver Moore

“Cliffhanger” is one of the plethora of action movies that Sylvester Stallone has starred in since his breakout in “Rocky”. In it he plays Sylvester Stallone under the guise of a different name, Gabe Walker in this case. He’s not fooling us though. After a muted opening sequence in which he inadvertently allows a girl, who has an odd relationship with both Hal (Michael Rooker) and Gabe, to fall to her death. He returns a year or so later after trying to escape the trauma of what happened but is immediately sent back out on a rescue mission in the Rocky (I see what they did there) Mountains. The supposed “victims” do turn out to be a group of criminal masterminds however and inevitably Sly has to stop them.

most of the many problems with “Cliffhanger” are to be found within it’s concerted effort to be an action movie with just a bit more to it. Gabe isn’t supposed to be the fearless action hero we saw in “First Blood” but more rather a character who isn’t emotionally equipped to deal with the task set upon him. I like the idea of the main character having an obstacle to overcome that can’t be solved with “send x number of bullets in these directions”. Besides the initial problem with actually getting Gabe to agree to help with the rescue, his fear is never mentioned again and never becomes an issue in any situation. Gabe is often forced into perilous situations which would be a nice excuse to take him out of his comfort zone and see him deal with that, but he just… deals with it by being an action hero. The whole idea that he is dealing with guilt which seemed to be the main backbone of the plot at first is just completely irrelevant and Gabe does just sound like a whiny child when he complains about his problems over everyone else’s. There is no sympathy, empathy, intrigue, or tragedy and it’s quite frankly best described as a benign tumour residing in the gut of the film.

Due to Hal’s strong relationship to the victim of the fall during the films introduction, he blames Gabe for letting his girl fall to her death. As they both have to spend portions of the movie in captivity together and as a result have to co operate with one another it’s only logical that this would be a significant conflict that could really create some tense situations. Maybe Gabe needs Hal to save him in a scenario that parallels the sequence that made them both enemies? Wrong. All this conflict causes is a few words of hatred from Hal and that’s essentially it. There is absolutely no friction worth talking about between either of them, they may as well be Teflon coated caricatures of mildly annoyed men. Other characters of course also suffer from being pretty useless throughout and that unfortunately includes the bad guys who seem like they are trying to come across as ruthless and merciless but just seem stupid and brutish. Screaming whilst pushing people around doesn’t make for intriguing villains, it makes for “Tom and Jerry” sketches.

John Lithgow as the main antagonist does actually show a bit of promise though. He comes complete with the offset voice and cold stare that is often packaged in with his ilk. For the most part he is fairly average as a villain though we do see him occasionally do some genuinely ruthless things just to get his own way though these are the only times I appreciated him as he doesn’t really stand out beyond these small moments where his mental prowess shines through. Beyond the dodgy special effects (even for the time) and poor editing what else is there to say?  The rest of the film is one cobbled together action sequence after another and none are compelling, we are forced to watch again and again in the vain hope that “Cliffhanger” will eventually stop hanging and elevate itself above the standard action film, a pipe dream I’m afraid. Well, I guess I’m just glad it didn’t end on a…

Oh yes. I am funny.

4/10

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