Bullet Points: Cliffhanger
In this edition of Bullet Points, I’ll take a look at Sylvester Stallone’s 1993 classic Cliffhanger!
The Gist: After a botched heist involving unused U.S. currency, a group of mad men led by Eric Qualen take two rescue climbers captive and use them to recover the stolen money that was lost during their plane crash. One climber, Gabe Walker (Stallone), escapes captivity and he and Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) work independently to allow themselves enough time to get to the money before Qualen has no more use for them.
Just looking at this picture makes me sick.
The Cast: I will never complain about a Sly Stallone action movie. He is definitely on my Mt. Rushmore of action stars. The guy has made so many classic beefed up action movies that I could spend a week watching them and come out with 5% bodyfat. The cast of Cliffhanger works perfect for the movie that it tries to be. Michael Rooker is always great and I’ve always had a crush on Janine Turner ever since Northern Exposure. It’s good to see that Rooker is finally getting super famous from being on The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy. Turner is a strong and beautiful female counterpart to Sly and Rooker’s characters.
Stallone definitely does some sweet stunts in this one.
The Villain: John Lithgow was brought in very late in the process but I can’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Qualen. Lithgow does his best Hannibal Lector and his performance will give you a good idea of the creepiness to expect if you watch him later in the Dexter series. Qualen had brought with him a strong group of henchmen that were definitely tough, stereotypical, and fun to watch die. Leon was always a personal favorite of mine after his role in the basketball film Above The Rim (RIP Tupac), and he actually beats the shit out of Sly for a while. They throw in a tough chick and an Aussie footballer along with Rex Linn as Travers and that makes for a plethora of climbing related injuries and deaths to be had.
Lithgow’s crew pretty much had all of the bad guy bases covered; European, woman, black guy, long-haired guy with no name, and dirty federal agent.
The Action: The action is fantastic in Cliffhanger! There are so many times when someone shouldn’t have shot grenade launchers into snow covered mountains, but they did anyways, causing avalanches galore. I feel like the team of thugs who had been gathered by Qualen was surprisingly well prepared with all of their cold weather gear too. Let’s talk about his group for a second; if the plan had always been to rob the plane mid-air and make off with the money, why would he need an eccentric and diverse group of heathens to help him do it? Wouldn’t a pilot and maybe one other guy fill their needs? Oh well, maybe he had hired them before knowing the full plan. They did, however, provide us with plenty of cannon fodder for Stallone and Rooker to take out. At what I would call the crux of the movie, Stallone free climbs up a rock face and traverses an insane amount of area without a jacket before descending into a bat-filled cave and gorilla pressing Leon through a freakin’ ice cycle. Not only did that last sentence have at least five climbing terms, but I also said that STALLONE GORILLA PRESSED IMPALED A MAN!
Human shish kebab.
Take it Home:
- Who wants to see a big-ass stunt: Stuntman Simon Crane was paid $1 million to do the air-to-air transfer during the heist scene. A record for the most expensive stunt.
- Casting couch: Christopher Walken was originally slated to play Qualen but he backed out before production started.
- Favorite quote: “It costs a fortune to heat this place.” After Sly keeps his fire going with $30 million.
- Favorite quote: “Kill a few people and they call you a murderer. Kill a few million and you’re’ a conqueror. Go figure.”
- Call Christopher Nolan: Well I guess it’s only natural that after their experience in the cave Gabe and Jesse become bat-themed vigilantes.
- What a maneuver: GORILLA PRESS IMPALEMENT!
- Geography lesson: While taking place in the Rocky Mountains, this was filmed in the Italian Alps.
- Judges ruling: I still believe that I hold the record for highest Gorilla Press at over 14,000 feet while at the peak of Pikes Peak in Colorado. Take that Walker!