I know that some of you might balk at the notion of watching a thirty-year-old action movie starring Sylvester Stallone but there are plenty of reasons why you should check it out. Cliffhanger is an exciting, refreshing and very entertaining action movie featuring incredible stunts. Actually, the movie is in the fucking Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive aerial stunt ever performed. Stuntman Simon Crane was paid $1 million to cross once between two planes at fifteen thousand feet, without the aid of any safety devices or trick photography. They had to film this scene in the United States as shit like this is illegal in Europe.
Cliffhanger takes a classic story of a heist gone wrong and places it on top of a fucking mountain! You might say that this is basically a Die Hard on a mountain. Especially since they also had a sequel in the works, describing it as “Die Hard in a dam”. All of this is not so surprising as Renny Harlin, director of this movie, was also the man behind Die Hard 2. I do recommend you check out his nineties hits The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. Cliffhanger was a hugely popular movie in the nineties. I remember how every television station ran the trailer incessantly making sure we would tune in at the right time.
The opening scene sets the mood for what’s about to follow perfectly. We watch a man wave a red flare on top of a mountain peak that looks totally inaccessible. I don’t know about you, but I sure do feel a bit angsty watching people that high up. And our man Renny knows how to build tension and create that uncomfortable feeling in your gut. So get ready for those intense scenes of slowly failing climbing equipment. Although seeing Stallone wearing nothing but a ripped t-shirt and showing off his muscles can make you laugh at times. His low-key and more mature performance here was one of his best along with the one in Cop Land.
Gabe Walker is still recovering from a horrific incident that happened some eight months ago. He’s part of a mountain rescue team and he will have to get over his issues really fast. Mostly because there’s a group of people stranded on top of the mountain, injured and without any food. So, Gabe decides to go help them along with his friend Hal. What they don’t know is that the people in trouble are actually trouble. They’re a group of highly skilled criminals who just pulled one of the biggest heists in the US.
John Lithgow basically reprises his role from Ricochet as one nasty bad guy along with dashing Caroline Goodall as Kristel. We also have Michael Rooker and Janine Turner. However, we all know that the Cliffhanger is a one-man show. Lean and mean, Stallone took on this role in an effort to conquer his fear of heights. The script is solid as they didn’t take themselves too seriously. This also means there will be a couple of nice twists and surprises. However, do not expect any wonders. Just turn off your brain and get ready for some exciting fun.
This is an old-school action movie with an over-the-top characters and fairly insane plot. Finally, although the story takes place in Colorado, most of the Cliffhanger was shot in the Dolomites, Italy. And if you don’t want to climb all the way, there are a lot cool walking trails all over this stunning mountain range. A quick YouTube search will help you if you plan on visiting them.
Director: Renny Harlin
Writers: John Long, Michael France, Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall
Fun Facts: For the bat cave scene, real bats were brought in but Stallone and Turner were too afraid to continue so they sorted that out in post-production.