Thursday, January 29, 2015

Weekly Schlock and awe!

Cliffhanger - Poster

Cliffhanger is a Sly Stallone action movie that was sort of a reboot for him. Sure he had his Rambo and Rocky, but he also had his Rhinestone, Oscar and Stop or My Mom will Shoot. Cliffhanger comes along and throws Stallone back into the realm of action stuff.
A lot of the early 90’s action movies followed the Die Hard equation: One Guy + Confined Space or Vehicle +  some Dame (random or known doesn’t matter) + Sum of Money + Charismatic Villain x Guns/Explosions = Action Movie Success!!!!! Cliffhanger follows this equation, but with one real change. They remove the confined space or vehicle and choose giant expansive open environment instead. Does it work?

A group of mountain climbing friends that are also mountain climbing rescue people are out for a fun day of climbing. One girlfriend falls to  her death. Stallone is sad and leaves because he couldn’t save her. Michael Rooker is mad, because Stallone couldn’t save her. Jump ahead to a mid-air treasury plane heist of 100 million dollars (which kind of lays the ground work for The Dark Knight Rises airplane scene) that goes a bit askew. This leads to three cases of money all over a mountain, a crashed plane and a squad of goons lead by the dad from 3rd Rock from the Sun/Harry and the Hendersons looking to get their cash. A fake rescue call later and Michael Rooker is off to help. Strangely Stallone is in town to collect his last few bits of life and leave again. When holy crap! He has to go help his buddy save some people trapped on the mountain. This begins a series of gun fights, running and climbing chase scenes and general mountain shenanigans.
Alright, the good bits mostly involve Stallone wasting the squad of goons that John Lithgow brings with him. They are a combination of nobodies and “Hey it that guy! You know he was the guy with the shirt in that movie with the car.” He lays waste to them in various 90’s action style with just a few quips. Not too many, but just enough to remind anyone who forgot, that this was an action movie. There is a healthy mix of fists, stabby items, guns and explosions to quench the thirst of action fans. Plus, Stallone is always great when he gets thrown a beating. He does a great pain face, or maybe that is just his face?

Not even a "Get the point!" , "Whats hangin'?" "He got the point." quip here.
The scenes that were actually filmed on/in the mountains look spectacular! I really like the fact they used the mountains for the setting as it changes the dynamic of the 90’s action film. Instead of a building, boat, bus, plane etc.; we get a shoot'em up in the mountains. A great setting as they can add more danger with heights, falls and the elements. Why did they add a pack of wolves and a swarm of bats though? Wasn’t the snow, cold and crazy heights enough for a scary natural environment?
Now, there is a big pile of drek here too. The biggest is that on what stage is John Lithgow a match for punchy beefy Stallone? None. Lithgow really phones in his performance. His delivery is a weak impression of Hans Gruber and most Anthony Hopkins villains when he talks. He is full of one-liners that are just not fun. Instead of a quasi-likable bad guy we get a semi-brooding and just bored looking John Lithgow. Maybe he was told to be this way, or maybe he just didn’t give a crap. He is just an awful choice for the bad guy in this movie. Was he ever good in anything? Well aside from Bakaroo Banzai!
WHERE IS MY OVER-THRUSTER! Wait..wrong movie.

There are some pit falls here too. What starts as a bit of Stallone pity party/ redemption story goes away as soon as the bullets start flying. Where is the crisis of confidence that was beaten over our heads just minutes earlier? Stallone wants nothing to do with the rescue call, but then just shows up on the mountain ahead of Michael Rooker who left earlier? Seriously, did anyone really feel the need a pack of wolves and a swarm of bats? Nope. What is the point of the snowboarding cliff diver X-treme sports guys? They are not there to drive the plot, but we are supposed to care about them or something? Did anyone care that the old man, Frank, was killed off?  Why did Stallone destroy all the money? Won’t that get him in a ton of trouble with the Treasury Department guys that could never reach the scene until the end. Why does the broad come up the mountain to help? Seriously, what is she going to do except get in trouble and scream a bunch? They could have left here out completely and achieved the same result without adding the old woman in distress cliché.
Cliffhanger is by no means perfect but it has some moments. This is a descent 90’s action movie, but not quite to that guilty pleasure level. It is not the best Stallone has done (Demolition Man or Tango and Cash! Right!?), but is nowhere near the worst (Judge Dread, Over the Top or any of his comedy movies). I would recommend it if you want a mindless action movie with beautiful backgrounds and scenery.

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