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Cliffhanger

Year: 1993
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Janine Turner, Michael Rooker, John Lithgow
The movie that marked Sly's return to the genre he spent the 1980s being famous for before he went off the rails with high profile turkeys Oscar and Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot.

He's always had a funny relationship with Hollywood. It's only when he's the sort of can-do-anything hero audiences got sick of that he really worked. As soon as he tried anything else (such as comedy, in the above examples), he fell flat on his face.

But his return to form was in the hands of anything goes director Renny Harlin. Funny that they're similarly disgraced in Hollywood now. Stallone can barely get a movie made, and his last one or two have gone straight to video as I write this review. And Harlin, after high profile and arresting work with Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, quickly sank under the disappointment of Cutthroat Island and Deep Blue Sea.

At the time, Cliffhanger was the saving grace of both their careers. Taking a highly stylised approach with lots of balletic leaps, nick of time saves and not only strongly choreographed but at times shockingly violent action, Harlin turned the actionometer up to 11.

An interesting thing about him is that he's always been braver than most Hollywood action helmers to show violence to the point where it's upsetting. In Die Hard 2 he had few compunctions about depicting a plane crash full of innocent victims whose belongings ended up strewn across an icy runway. Likewise in Cliffhanger, he shows you with a sort of sick glee (in slo-mo, no less) the cold blooded gunning down of several characters by the criminals.

Gabe (Stallone) has moved back to the Rockies after a year. He's left (some say run), unable to face losing the girlfriend of his colleague Tucker (Rooker) in a climbing accident, in one of the most harrowing sequences ever committed to celluloid.

At the same time, a heist at the Treasury is pulled off and as the heavies are getting away with the loot, a midair mishap makes them lose their cargo, which falls in the snow-covered mountains.

Landing and pretending to be a stranded aircrew, they trick Gabe and Tucker into coming to their aid, only to take them hostage and force them at gunpoint to retrieve the cases of money. The chase is on to get the upper hand, and it's all very old-style thrilling and high octane. If you love action films it's a must.

The signature image from the film's promotion - of Stallone flying through the air as he leaps over a ravine, was actually cut from the film after test audiences found it too ridiculous to believe. The same test screenings ensured the bunny lived after being shot at by the nasty villain.

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