Whilst crossing a ledge, 4000 feet above the earth, Gabe's friend's equipment fails to work and she slips out of his hand, falling to the ground. Almost a year later, Gabe is asked to go back to the same mountain range and rescue a group of 'stranded' people. The only catch is that these so called 'stranded' people are in fact looking for three boxes filled with $100,000,000 and they need a mountain ranger to lead them to them!!Written by
Michael Feller <Reb@magna.com.au>
In the cave of bats scene, the "bats" seen on-screen, were added in post-production as a visual effect. Real bats were brought in to fill the cave, but Sylvester Stallone and Janine Turner were too afraid to shoot the scene with live bats. See more »
(at around 1h 35 mins) When Tucker helps Walker out of the water, Walker is soaking wet. We cut briefly to Qualen in the chopper, then when we cut back to Tucker and Walker, Walker is completely dry (even his hair). See more »
On the plane shootout an agent is shot twice in the chest, in the NC-17 work print it shows a second or so more of him feeling the impacts in slow-motion.
Another agent is shot in the head, blood and brain matter splats on the wall behind him but in the R rated version you only briefly see the aftermath of him falling back.
When the co-pilot is shot in the NC-17 work print you see a different angle of blood and brains splattering on the window with him slumping back in the chair in slow-motion in the R rated version the scene is considerably shorter and just shows the pistol put to his head and fired.
When the co-pilot is shot in the R rated version you see him wriggling about and then falling backwards out of the plane with some bloody wounds on his back, in the work print you can clearly see multiple bloody bullet holes appearing in slow-motion as he is being shot by the agent.
When Brett is shot in the R rated version you see two bloody bullet hits on his back before he falls to the ground. In the work print he takes two bloody bullet hits in the back and then there is another shot of 3 more coming out of his chest and as he falls to the ground you can see another shot of him from behind taking another 3 hits before hitting the ground.
In the R rated version Evan is fired upon and doesn't appear to be hit until Frank finds him later. In the work print Kynette forces Travers shoot at Evan you then see Evan take a bullet through the shoulder in slow-motion which explains why he appears to have been shot when Frank finds him later on.
The fight between Gabe and Kynette has been shortened for the R rated version which misses shots of Gabe and Jessie being beaten further after Kynette asks for the *third* time where the money is (this is missing in the R rated version which leads to a continuity error as he said he would ask three times)The impaling of Kynette has been shortened, in the work print there is more focus on Kynette's eyes going back into his head and Gabe gritting his teeth holding Kynette up on the stalagmite as he is dying before finally dropping him.
When Hal and Delmar fight the R rated version has removed a shot of Delmar kicking Hal hard in the kidneys and saying "Tell me how are we feeling so far?" as opposed to the R rated version "Tell me do you like soccer" they have been edited together and this now explains why Delmar appears out of breath when he asks the soccer question.
When Hal shoots Delmar with the shotgun in the work print you see Craig Fairbrass get shot with a large splatter of blood behind him and a bloody shotgun wound to his chest as he dives off the mountain. The R rated version shows a different angle with a stuntman falling off the mountain. Additionally the work print shows Delmar's body slamming into the rocks below where as the R rated version cuts away just before.
When Qualen shoots Kristel in the work print all three bloody bullet impacts are shown, in the R rated version it cuts away after the first shot to show Traver's reaction.
The Gabe and Travers fight has been edited (this might not be censorship, apparently the filmmakers decided it would be better to have Gabe shoot Traver's with his piton gun before falling under the ice as per the R rated version) in the work print Gabe shoots Traver's once with the piton gun and Traver's gets up and tries to shoot Gabe through the ice and is then shot by Hal three times with a shotgun before falling under the ice (this explains why Hal appears with a shotgun in the R rated version).
The ending fight with Gabe and Qualen has been shortened so kidney punches, an arm break and a longer shot of a terrified Qualen crashing to his death in the helicopter were taken out.
Watching Cliffhanger makes me nostalgic for the early '90s, a time when virtually every new action movie could be described as "Die Hard in a /on a." Cliffhanger is "Die Hard on a mountain," and pretty good, for what it is.
But unlike Passenger 57 and Under Siege, which are decent Die Hard clones on their own terms, Cliffhanger dispenses with the enclosed feeling of many action movies and embraces breathtaking landscapes that, in their immensity, threaten to overwhelm and trivialize the conflicts of the people fighting and dying among the peaks.
Years before other movies like A Simple Plan and Fargo dramatized crime and murder on snowbound locations, Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin recognized the visual impact of juxtaposing brutal violence and grim struggles to survive against cold and indifferent natural surroundings.
The opening sequence has already received substantial praise, all of which it deserves: its intensity allows us to forget the artifice of the camera and the actors and simply believe that what we are seeing is actually happening. Not even Harlin's shot of the falling stuffed animal, which is powerfully effective but still threatens to become too much of a joke (and which he repeated in Deep Blue Sea), or the ridiculous expression on Ralph Waite's face, can dim the sequence's power.
The next impressive set-piece is the gunfight and heist aboard the jet. As written by Stallone and Michael France and directed by Harlin, the audience is plunged into the action by not initially knowing which agents are involved in the theft and which are not: the bloody double-crosses are completely unexpected. As Roger Ebert has observed, the stuntman who made the mid-air transfer between the planes deserves some special recognition.
Later, during the avalanche sequence, one of the terrorists/thieves appears to be actually falling as the wall of snow carries him down the mountain. So far as I know, no one was killed in the making of this movie (a small miracle, considering the extreme nature of some of the stunts), so obviously a dummy was used for the shot. But the shot itself remains impressive because we're left wondering how Harlin (or more likely one of the second-unit directors) knew exactly where to place the camera.
I'll take Sly Stallone as my action hero any day of the week, because he's one of the few movie stars I've ever seen who's completely convincing as someone who can withstand a lot of physical and emotional pain, and at the same time actually feels that pain. The role of Gabe Walker really complements Stallone's acting strengths: he plays an older, more vulnerable kind of action hero, giving an impressively low-key performance as a mountain rescuer who must redeem himself.
In contrast to many of today's post-Matrix, comic book-inspired action heroes, Stallone's Walker is an ordinary man who becomes a hero without any paranormal or computer-enhanced abilities. In Cliffhanger, the hero almost freezes to death, and his clothes start to show big tears as he barely escapes one dangerous situation after another. He winces when he's hit and bleeds when he's cut, particularly in the cavern sequence when he takes a Rocky-style pummeling from one of the mad-dog villains.
It should be noted that the utterly despicable villains really contribute to the movie's effectiveness: when I first saw this movie as a teenager, I was rooting for the good guys every step of the way and anticipating when another bad guy would bite the dust (or rather, the ice); at one point I actually cheered as one of the most cold-blooded characters in the movie deservedly suffered a violent demise.
Lithgow's British accent is as unconvincing as the movie's occasional model plane or model helicopter, but he's fundamentally a good actor, and one of the few who can perfectly recite silly dialogue: in one scene, looking at his hostages Stallone and Rooker, trying to decide which tasks to give them, he actually says "You, stay! You, fetch!" Even a better actor, such as Anthony Hopkins, might have had trouble with that line.
Even if Cliffhanger occasionally tosses credibility aside, it does so only for the sake of a more entertaining show.
Early in the movie, for example, Lithgow openly says to one of his men "Retire [Stallone] when he comes down." No real criminal mastermind would have made this mistake even unconsciously: his carelessness allows Rooker to shout a warning up to Sly on the rock face, and this precipitates a gripping tug-of-war between Stallone and the bad guys trying to pull him down by the rope tied to his leg.
Lithgow could have given his order by a more subtle means, but the sequence might not have been as much fun to watch if it hadn't given Rooker an opportunity to openly defy the arrogance of his captor.
Done very much in the style of a Saturday matinee serial or (at times) a Western, Cliffhanger is built on such a solid foundation that it survives some weak elements that would have undermined a lesser film.
Besides the painfully obvious aircraft models mentioned before, the weak moments include a couple of scenes shot on cheap indoor sets with REALLY fake snow, as well as two other scenes involving bats and wolves that seem unnecessary in an already action-packed narrative. Finally, Harlin's decision to film some of the death scenes in slow motion seems pointless, since the technique contributes nothing to the scenes.
It's a shame that Stallone is now too old for action movies, because his character in this movie seems so credible that inevitably I wonder what he would be like years later. But perhaps it's best that Cliffhanger stands on its own for all time, without a sequel: there are enough tired and obsolete movie franchises already. There was an unofficial sequel that called itself Vertical Limit: compared to that clinker, Cliffhanger belongs on the IMDb's Top 250 list.
Rating: 8 (Very good, especially considering most of Stallone's other movies.)
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