1993, Movie, R, 112 mins


CLIFFHANGER offers us breathtaking mountain scenery, some occasionally gripping action sequences, and a lot of gags--mostly unintentional and mostly courtesy of Sylvester Stallone. It may go down in screen history as the nail in the coffin of the "Die Hard" sub-genre, in which all the key elements of that blockbuster have been recycled to the point of self-parody.

Stallone plays Gabe Walker, a rescue climber pitted against a gang of hijackers whose plane has crashed on a snow-capped Rocky Mountain peak. Led by Qualen (John Lithgow), whose hammy quips and English accent peg him as a criminal mastermind, the gang is now intent on retrieving three suitcases containing $100 million. But they haven't reckoned on Walker, who can climb thousands of feet of snowy rockface clad only in a T-shirt, outpace a helicopter, and anticipate every move Qualen makes.

When he's not killing bad guys or rescuing his girlfriend, Jessie (Janine Turner), Walker gets to deliver some dialogue that is as spectacular, in its own Stallonesque way, as the scenery. (Qualen: "Walker, you're a real piece of work." Walker: "Yeah, an' you're a real piece of sh...")

Audiences who stayed away from Stallone's early 90s comedies, OSCAR and STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT, may have been wrong. What CLIFFHANGER tells us is that the star is a comic actor, after all. From the moment he first opens his mouth, we give up any hope of a suspenseful action drama and settle in, instead, for a ride punctuated alternately by chuckles and groans. leave a comment

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