One of the most original, unpredictable buddy movies in cinematic history, this "hauntingly powerful, exhilarating thriller" (New York Magazine) stars four-time Oscar(r) nominee* JeffBridges and John Heard (The Pelican Bri... more »ef) as two friends locked in a pulse-pounding battle for their lives. Suspected of murdering a teenage girl, Richard Bone (Bridges), a laidback Santa Barbara boat salesman and gigolo, turns to his best friend, Alex Cutter (Heard), a disabled Vietnam veteran, for help in finding the real killer. But Bone gets more than he bargained for when Cutter pushes the envelope and, instead of contacting the police, tries to blackmail their suspect andtheir suspect, instead of giving in, violently turns the tables on them! Trapped between the killerand the cops, Cutter and Bone begin a cunning game of cat-and-mouse that ignites into a full-blown wara "nightmare vision that leaves you bewildered, yet moved" (LA Herald-Examiner)! *2000: Supporting Actor, The Contender; 1984: Actor, Starman; 1974: Supporting Actor, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot; 1971: Supporting Actor, The Last Picture Show« less
"When Cutter's Way was first released in theatres in 1981, it tanked at the box office thanks to bad press from The New York Times and a nervous studio still smarting from the bath it took on Heaven's Gate. A good film almost disappeared from sight. Fortunately, the advent of video, and now its debut on DVD, has given this unusual film a second chance that it so richly deserves. Jeff Bridges proves once again that he is one of the best American actors working in film today. He portrays Bone as a man afraid of commitment, content to do little, but fall back on his pretty boy looks to bed any woman who crosses his path. As one character tells him, "Sooner or later you're going to have to make a decision about something." This could be the underlying thesis of the whole film: making decisions, taking a stand about something.John Heard's Alex Cutter is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He desperately wants to get involved in something, anything to stop living life in a bottle of alcohol. And so, he latches on to the murder mystery with the ferocious tenacity of a pitbull. Heard plays Cutter like a character straight out of a Tom Waits song. His performance, complete with raspy voice and cynical outlook on life, recalls many of Waits' down-on-their-luck losers that populate his songs.The actors vividly breathe life into their respective characters creating the impression that they exist beyond what we see on the screen, that in some way we already know them and that they'll continue to exist after the film ends.Director Ivan Passer also deserves credit for creating this world. From the haunting opening shot of a parade, caught in dreamy slow motion (thanks to Jordan Cronenweth's superb cinematography), filmed at first in black and white and then as the credits fade in and out it gradually becomes colour, Passer draws the audience into his absorbing drama. Cutter's Way contains strong visuals to contrast the ambiguous story. Nothing is spelled out for the audience, even right up to its conclusion. Do we support Cutter's obsessive conspiracy theories or Bone's refusal to get involved?Following in the grand tradition of short changing this movie, MGM has decided to include only the theatrical trailer on the DVD. What about a retrospective featurette? All the principals are still alive and I'm sure would love to talk about this movie. Or an audio commentary? Jeff Bridges contributed an excellent one on the Against All Odds DVD so he's hip to the format. A lot of missed opportunities here."
Joseph B Murray | London United Kingdom | 04/24/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Stumbled across this movie by chance.All three leads are superb, giving the kind of charismatic, heroic, complex performances you so rarely see in Hollywood these days; the direction is deceptively simple, but subtly poetic and moving - it has the same kind of feel as the best of Milos Forman's American pictures (Cuckoo's Nest etc.), only with it's own gentle power.It's sort of a Film Noir/Character Study/Dropout Movie. Actually, waffling aside, it's just one of those movies you either clutch tightly to your breast after one viewing or aren't really going to care much for. Well, it got me and even though I'd like to think I found it first and it's my little secret, I know that's not true... Anyway, watch and enjoy; it's not perfect, it may not actually be great, but it should stab you in the heart a little, and take you on the kind of quirky, bumpy ride you might just need! Give it a try........"
eserhan | ISTANBUL, ESENTEPE Turkey | 11/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The alcoholic, blasphemous and "crippled" Cutter would not please Arnold fans. But for his crowd, he pulls out a heartbreaking display of bravery and follows his paranoia until the very end.We have seen men like him on screen before, but they lacked the willingless to sacrifice themselves in pursuit of re-gaining self respect and the ability to turn "no-good" bystanders (Bone) in the process.The off beat pace of the movie, the underacting and its noir tones very successfully dims the gut wrenching drama at play, without affecting the suspense. The suspense? There is more of it in wondering where the Cutter's relentless path to self-destruction might lead to than in solving the murder mystery at play. Simply worth watching for John Heard's perfect depiction of Cutter. Bridges (Bone) and Eichhorn are excellent as well."
More Relevant Than Ever
Only-A-Child | 11/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The title "Cutter's Way" is a reference to the main character, Alexander Cutter, perhaps cinema's all-time best antihero. John Heard plays the difficult role of an angry Vietnam veteran who returned from what he now regards as a meaningless war minus an arm, an eye, and a leg. He hates the fat cats-feeling that they conned him and others into patriotically serving while they stayed home, and he resents his best friend Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) who avoided the war and continues to avoid any involvement or commitment. Commitment is Alexander Cutter's one remaining virtue, when he sets his sights on taking down an arrogant oil tycoon who has gotten away with murdering a 17 year old cheerleader, he stubbornly refuses to give up this mission and insists on doing it his way..
Heard should have gotten the Best Actor Oscar in 1981 (it went to Henry Fonda for "On Golden Pond") but "Cutter's Way" was not popular with critics and viewers so Heard was not even nominated for this role. It is an amazing performance as Heard must win audience sympathy for a character who is not only unpleasant, but terribly abusive to everyone, including his wife and his only two remaining friends. But he earns our admiration with his final act as a knight (on a white horse) who gallops into danger to avenge his wife's murder.
With this Cutter is finally revealed as a romantic who is willing to back up his angry words and seemingly empty threats. His anger is over more than his futile wartime sacrifice. He feels frustration and confusion because while he has remained the same, the world has changed around him in ways antithetical to his beliefs (can you identify with that?). He recognizes that he has become irrelevant to this world but is not going out until he has made a last stand. His commitment ultimately gets Bone to take his first moral stand and finish what his friend started, doing it "Cutter's Way".
Like "Fat City" (another of Jeff Bridges' early films) "Cutter's Way" is more appreciated now than at the time of its release. In part this is because both of these films have held up very well, if anything their political messages are even more relevant today. And make no mistake, thematically "Cutter's Way" is a political film-both anti-war and anti-power; very much in the tradition of "Chinatown" and the world of Raymond Chandler adaptations.
This film is essentially a character study with an expressionistic ending. Most action/adventure fans will find it way too slow and cerebral for their tastes. The acting and the themes are its strength, the contrived story is a non-fatal flaw. The multi-dimensionality of Cutter, Bone, and Cutter's wife Mo (an extraordinary performance by Lisa Eichhorn) are carefully crafted and revealed by director Ivan Passer. Cutter's other remaining friend George (Arthur Rosenberg) is equally well crafted but more secondary to the story.
A fifth character (the dead cheerleader's older sister played by Ann Dusenberry) appears to be a victim of the post-production process as she simply disappears without explanation about 20 minutes before the film's end. Normally the absence of a supporting character would go unnoticed but Dusenberry had done such a nice job developing this character (maximizing what little she was given to work with) that the absence is glaring. Contemporary audiences will see a lot of Dominique Swain in Dusenberry. They not only look enough alike to be sisters but they have the same confident flare to their acting style. Passer had to work hard to keep Dusenberry reined in but succeeded in getting a nice restrained performance from her, her high intensity peaks through just enough to convey that there is more to her character than meets the eye.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."
Wealth, Power, and Commitment
Douglas Doepke | Claremont, CA United States | 05/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brilliant allegorical film about wealth, power, and commitment in America. Judging from other reviews, the film does not appeal to everyone. That's understandable. The characters are almost uniformly dislikable, from the abusive Rich (John Heard), to the egotistical Alex (Jeff Bridges), to the self-pitying Mo (Lisa Eichorn), to the slimy George (Arthur Rosenburg)-- there is no one left to root for. At least not until later when the two crippled halves of Bridges and Heard finally unite, figuratively and literally, into one potent whole. Then we realize that it's toward this completion that the twists and turns of the movie have been moving all along. (I think this also explains why the Ann Dusenberry character drops out at a critical stage. She is no longer needed to get the two together.)
Rarely has any film dared to create such an unsympathetic cast of personalities, especially Heard's Richard Cutter. If he has a single redeeming quality, I can't find it. His loud, grating voice annoys, piling on one sarcasm after another, oblivious to the hurt he causes. Like Mo he wallows in self-pity, and even shamelessly exploits his disability. Then too, his pursuit of the god-like J. J. Cord should appear noble, yet seems more the result of paranoid rage than a desire for justice. In fact, Heard's explosion of anger on the Santa Monica pier is among the scariest, most convincing expressions of pent-up emotion that I've seen in many years of movie watching. Perhaps he can be charitably viewed as an avenging angel, in the manner of Lee Marvin in Point Blank. But that's a a stretch, since the Vietnam War has left him literally half-a-man, a berserk little top spinning around on alcohol and apoplexy, which, of course, is why he needs the able-bodied Alex to carry out his obsession.
Yet Bridge's Alex Bone is an ultimate floater, getting by on boyish good-looks and charm. He has no concerns beyond himself, even seducing the vulnerable Mo, while husband Cutter is away. Apathy is his natural state. So trying to get him to act on the murder he's witnessed is like trying to push a big rock uphill. In fact, when he finally does blend with Cutter's rage and act, it's only because of Cord's arrogant 'sunglasses' gesture, and not because of a sudden steadfast commitment. In most films, it would be the handsome Bone riding the white charger and storming the heavens, having undergone a last minute conversion, and finally giving the audience someone to root for. Here, however, it's the wild spirit of Cutter who rides to the rescue, having at last gotten his legs back if only for a moment. Thus, contrary to expectations, the only concession to Bone is a compromised last minute one.
There is, of course, a political subtext to all of this as one perceptive reviewer points out. Perhaps it's about how criminal wealth and power exist beyond the reach of ordinary folks, and how a commitment for change gets dispersed by escapism and a popular feeling of powerlessness, which can only be corrected by what appears a radical form of madness. But allegories aside, this is a bitter brew that does not go down easily. More than that, however, it remains a superb cult film whose provocative characters and perplexing imagery stay with you long after the screen has gone to black.