Cliffhanger

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CLIFFHANGER—–utterly ruthless, heavily armed hijackers vs. an unarmed, heavily muscled Sylvester Stallone set new standards of unbelievability as they play Tom & Jerry in the Colorado Rockies (actually the Italian Alps).  John Lithgow’s bad guys (mercenaries/dicks) dish out the mean, and Sly undergoes more punishment, survives more impossible scrapes, takes more suicidally lucky chances and scoops it all in such wildly inappropriate clothing than anyone since, well, Rambo.

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The mountains are impressive, the stunts are fairly exciting, Trevor Jones gives some polish with his score (even if it does sound a bit like his work for The Last Of The Mohicans). The villains are such quantum pricks that you keep watching just to see how they will get killed. Stallone is…Stallone: looks great, grunts, strains, talks too fast, gets to be a martyr, is really lovable, etc.  Lithgow’s character is a lousy imitation of Alan Rickman’s bad guy from Die Hard. His English accent must have been coached by Kevin Costner.

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Costing $70,000,000 to inflict the mayhem, its $255,000,000 gross in 1993, #7 for the year, gave Stallone a big hit after several duds (fans of the following raise your hands: Rocky V, Lock Up, Oscar, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most expensive stunt ever was logged here, when stuntman Simon Crane crossed between two airplanes, with no safety gear, at 15,000 feet. He earned $1,000,000. Other hard-working production aspects got the movie three Oscar nominations: Visual Effects, Sound and Sound Effects Editing, but they were chomped up by Jurassic Park.

Directed by Renny Harlin. With Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Leon Robinson, Craig Fairbrass, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite and Bruce McGill. 113 minutes. It’s too violent.

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