Bullet Points: Cutaway
Every time I start talking about the greatest skydiving movie of all time there always ends up being a big argument. The surfers think that Point Break is on top, the people who don’t pay their taxes go with Drop Zone, and the people who like Terminal Velocity think their film is winning. (How about those for a couple of dated references?) If anyone says The Gypsy Moths, they are immediately branded an idiot and exiled from any further movie discussions. While those are three of the best skydiving movies of all time, they are not THE best. Cutaway is the greatest skydiving movie of all time and dare I say the greatest film of all time.
OK, the love of this movie carried me away; it is only the greatest skydiving movie of all time. Cutaway was co-written and directed by Guy Manos, a former world champion skydiver and multiple world records holder. To be fair, he also wrote Drop Zone, but his directing, the non-stop action and superior cast make Cutaway the best.
- The Premise: Cutaway weaves an engaging undercover drug running story into the breathtaking skydiving footage and action. U.S. Customs Agent Vic Cooper (Stephen Baldwin) discovers that drugs are being smuggled into the U.S. with the aide of skydivers. Cooper has a history of falling in too deep and losing touch with reality when he goes undercover, but he still convinces his boss Brian Margate (played impeccably by the late great Ron Silver) to let him go undercover with Air Miami. Will Cooper fall when he goes into the world of skydiving? Spoiler alert, yes, of course, the whole purpose of skydiving is to fall. ZING!
- Going to Miami: Cooper pulls into Air Miami and is quickly identified by the skydiving junkies living at the drop zone as a Whuffo. A Whuffo, for you skydiving neophytes, is probably what most of you are, a non-skydiver. The term comes from the question out of most non-skydiver’s mouths, “Whuffo you jump out of them planes?” Cooper needs to get close to Redline (Tom Berenger) the leader, both emotionally and financially, of Air Miami. Cooper’s undercover alter ego decides to cutaway his fake job to become a drop zone habitué and join Air Miami’s speed star team. Speed star, for you Whuffos, is a competition when 8 skydivers see how fast they can meet in free fall and form a star and then hold for at least five seconds.
- As Good as Gold: Cooper, having no knowledge or skydiving skill, works with Sgt. Delmira (Casper Van Dien) of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights skydiving team. The Army team is the archrival of Air Miami, but Delmira does not know that Cooper is undercover with Air Miami. Intrigue! Demira eventually finds out Cooper is competing against him and retorts with the greatest insult comeback of all time, “You’re gonna lose! You’re a loser!” Feel free to use that one.
- By the Numbers: A speed star team is numbered from 8-1, with 8 being the last out of the plane and the best skydiver. Redline is the 8 for Air Miami and Cooper works his way up the ladder passing some colorful characters as Boom Boom, Cal, Ground Rush, Star (Maxine Bahns), Cord, Rip (Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Turbo (Dennis Rodman). While training, Cooper is also on a deadly hunt for the drug smugglers and realized they are closer than he would have liked. Star happens to be the first female on a good speed star team and the love interest for Cooper. Turbo has a distrust and dislike for Cooper especially as Cooper climbs up the speed star team, but Turbo gets his just deserts. Or is it just desserts? It’s both! That is stupid. Turbo gets his comeuppance.
- Montage Alert: Cutaway features a lot of skydiving, and skydiving training. What is the best way to show all this action on film? You didn’t have to raise your hand, we all knew it was with a montage. There are multiple montages showing all the action including an 80s sitcom opening credits style shoulder shrug and smile as Cooper is caught on a moving garbage truck. The garbage truck also acts as a billboard with the company name plastered on the side, which is just one of the products on the non-stop product placement Cutaway carousel.
- Big Boy Panties: This movie also features some of the strangest but lovable quotes of all time. Margate asks Cooper, “Did you ever hear the expression that you stick out like a skydiver at the dog track?” Have I? The only phrase I hear more is that you have to be willing to put on the big boy panties and sail out to the deep water. Some other gems include, “How long before we have to pull the cord? The rest of your life.” and “Wasn’t that like sex? If it was I have been doing it the wrong way.” Most of the great quotes come from Berenger and how he reads the lines. This is an actor who was nominated for Oscar for his work in the good but depressing Platoon, yet was overlooked by the Academy from his greatest work, the feel good Cutaway. Of course, they might not give Oscars for TV movies, but can the man get an Emmy? Oh, he has one, well, he should have had one earlier.
- All-Star Cast: Many of the other actors gave the performances of the careers. Casper Van Dien has never been better. The limited screen time suits his abilities perfectly. You can see and feel the transition of Vic Cooper as he enters and immerses himself into the skydiving world, and that is a credit to Stephen Baldwin. Maxine Bahns has never looked better, but in all honesty I have never seen anything she has been in before. Thomas Ian Nicholas plays a character that would be right at home in an American Pie movie so it wasn’t much of stretch, but it worked for his character. The rest of the cast that I have never seen before (or since) were flawless, and I already mentioned the one and only Ron Silver. The only actor that seemed to mail it in was Dennis Rodman. I know his character was supposed to be the tough one, but he never looked like he was having a good time, even when skydiving.
- Taking It Up The What?: The epic final skydiving competition takes place at Myrtle Beach and as you probably guessed there is a showdown between Air Miami and the Army team. While it probably isn’t too hard to guess who comes out on top there are some surprises and twists along the way that keep the viewer interested. When I tell you the movie ends on a flat note, that couldn’t be more of a complement to the perfect ending to this skydiving masterpiece. And as Ground Rush says, taking two torpedoes up the ass in order to win is better than a silver medal. Wait, if that is what it means to be a skydiver, call me a Whuffo.