Cliffhanger; action, USA, 1993; D: Renny Harlin, S: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Leon Robinson
After he failed to save a friend hanging from a rope, who fell and died, ranger Gabriel Walker decides to quit his job and stay away from the mountain life, especially since his friend Hal resents him for her death. Meanwhile, former operative Eric Qualen and his gang manage to steal 100 million $ sealed in three suitcases from a plane thanks to treasury agent Travers, yet their plane crashes on the mountains and they thus summon Walker and Hal, and take them hostage, forcing them to find the three suitcases with money. Walker escapes and teams up with Jessie, trying to find the suitcases before Qualen and his henchmen. When all the villains are killed one by one, Qualen has a fight with Walker on a helicopter hanging from a cliff, yet it falls and kills Qualen. Walker and Jessie thus save Hal.
This mountain climber thriller is basically a big budget exploitation action film, trying to seize the attention of viewers by promising suspense and daring stunts, some of which are indeed great, yet feels overall flat and thin due to its forgettable, one-dimensional characters, standard writing and routine storyline which unfolds somewhat like "Die Hard" set on the mountains. These action stunts are impressive, but not to such a degree that they can compensate for the entire rest of the ingredients (directing, writing, acting, character development...) which are lazy and assembled without any effort. John Lithgow manages to lighten up the mood thanks to a few cynical lines: in one of the best moments, after Walker seems to have been swept away by a wave of avalanche on a cliff while trying to reach the suitcase with tens of millions of $ in it, he says: "Your friend just had the most expensive funeral in history!" More of such moments would have been welcomed, and less with Qualen just acting like a conventional villain, killing everyone. Even though his character of Walker is bland, Sylvester Stallone still manages to deliver a solid performance and make the most out of the predictable concept. Every once in a while, the heroes get into a situation that ostensibly feels like a dead end for them, yet they predictably always manage to survive, anyway, no matter how exaggerated it looks. Overall, "Cliffhanger" is an easily watchable, but also easily forgettable flick, not truly rising to the occasion except for a few moments of great stunts.