35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an engrossing murder mystery
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...
Published on June 20, 2003 by Cubist
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I am sorry, but this movie did not age well....I hated it !!!
I recall seeing this movie in a theater way back in 1981, when it was first released, and thinking (at the time) that it was very entertaining. In a fit of nostalgia, I recently rented the DVD and discovered that my initial, youthful impression was way off base. Like Shelly Winters and fish, this movie did not age well.
I have always been a great fan of Jeff...
Published on July 27, 2005 by The Jaundiced Eye
Most Helpful First | Newest First
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an engrossing murder mystery,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)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.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cutter's Way,
This review is from: Cutter's Way [VHS] (VHS Tape)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........
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cutter King,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)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.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wealth, Power, and Commitment,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)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.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Relevant Than Ever,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)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.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly excellent Cinema,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)One of my all-time favourite films this is an example of first class cinema. Jeff Bridges and John Heard are unlikely friends, more friends of convienience though at the heart there is something solid. A lot of reviews of this film state that its too simple - a murder mystery in essence and a partial study of relationships. Though its more than that for me, its a study of the best and worse of people AND the weary way one can live ones life if we let life get on top of us. Bone (Jeff Bridges) is totally tired of life - seeking thrills if he can be bothered - only deciding on a life changing course of action in the final frame of this film. Cutter (John Heard) is a drunk Veteran - immoral to everyone but those truly close to him.
Im trying to not give too much away but I consider this to be a truly classic film. And what a score!
My apologies for a rambling review - watch this.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fare for fans of offbeat cinema.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Cutter's Way [VHS] (VHS Tape)Heard and Bridges are such brillant characters in this film that Warren Zevon used to mention them when doing Werewolves of London in concert. Enough said!!!! Cutters Way shows what a fine actor John Heard is.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Depth of Tragic Poetry,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)"Cutter's Way," Ivan Passer's moody and eccentric 1981 drama, is the kind of film that requires repeated viewings. It's such a sad work, with unforgettable characters lost in a dreamy depression of white California sunshine. It's become a cult film, and perhaps its reputation precedes it.
It was because of that very reputation that I first viewed the film as a youth and wondered what all the fuss was about. Now as an adult, I have seen it again and suddenly understand it's dark agony. "Cutter's Way" is not an easy film to like, limping along much like its title character, enraged and filled with the bitterness of unfortunate fate.
John Heard's performance is the key. There was a time, around the late 1970s, when he was one of America's greatest actors. Heard made a trio of films, now largely forgotten, in which he perfectly symbolized the disaffected 20-something American suffering from a 1960's hangover. In Between the Lines (1985) (1977), Head Over Heels (aka Chilly Scenes of Winter) (1979) and "Cutter's Way," he was adorned in frayed jeans, scruffy hair and the perennial slouch of the cynic, railing against society and wondering just how he failed to realize the moment America went to hell. As Alex Cutter in "Cutter's Way," Heard gives a tour de force. A Vietnam veteran, hobbling around with one leg, one arm and an eye patch, Cutter is a perpetual drunk, slinging insults to anyone within earshot. He is enraged at a world that has forgotten him.
His best friend is Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges), a part-time beach bum, gigolo and boat salesman floating through a life of forgotten youth. They lounge in semi-commune in a rundown house with Cutter's wife Maureen (Lisa Eichhorn), the trio lost in depression and bottles of vodka. There was a time when life had meaning for these three, but that was many years ago.
Bone is driving home from a dalliance with an older married woman when his car breaks down in an alley. He witnesses a man dumping something into a trashcan, who then drives past him recklessly. Bone finds the police at his door the next morning. What was in the trashcan was a dead teenage hooker, and he's a suspect. At a parade the next day, he sees a man on a white horse and realizes this was the person he witnessed in the alley. There's one problem - he's the wealthiest and most powerful man in Santa Barbara.
Thus begins an unlikely mystery as Cutter wishes to fight for justice and see the man pay for his heinous crime. Bone, of course, could care less. For Cutter, it's an opportunity to convince his friend their miserable lives have purpose. Society, America, injustice - everything they once fought and rebelled against during the 1960s - has suddenly landed on their doorstep in the form of "The Man."
One of the many beauties of "Cutter's Way" is that you're never entirely sure if "The Man" is guilty or Cutter has just latched on to a fantasy to redeem a pathetic life. He alienates all around him and this specific project, blackmailing the suspect in an effort to prove he's guilty, could get them all killed. In the difficult and at times passive role of Bone, Jeff Bridges gives another in a long line of terrific performances. Forced to participate in Cutter's wild plan, he must come to terms with not only his love for Cutter, but his own loss of self worth. During their youth, hinted at throughout the film, there was the promise of making a difference while battling the Vietnam War, society and even Nixon. Such clear-cut enemies have long since faded. Much like the boats he attempts to sell, Bone is now adrift and average. Cutter's quest is an attempt to make a final stand against what he perceives to be corruption.
The final scene amazingly has Cutter riding on a white horse through "The Man's" property, past swimming pools, martini glasses and the socializing elite, symbolic of the 1960's rebellion against a corrupt America. In Cutter's mind, this wealth created the Vietnam War and sent many teenagers oversea to fight their battle, akin to throwing their lives into a trashcan. Cutter, carrying the deep scars of war, is taking on "The Man," and Bone must decide whether or not to make a stand with him. When the film fades to black, Cutter and Bone have become one, bonding for life as friends, performing the final, haunting act of the 1960's generation.
It's a tragic ending, mournful and heartbreaking, and yet filled with love. "Cutter's Way" was barely released due to its unconventional nature, awkward, irate and disillusioned. But it has the depth of tragic poetry. After my second viewing, many years down the road, I suddenly understood the anguish of these characters, and it left me longing. If you get "Cutter's Way," it could be one of the best films you've ever seen.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cutter's Way, Indeed,
This review is from: Cutter's Way (DVD)In a recent review of "Crazy Hearts", the vehicle for Jeff Bridges' Oscar-winning performance as down and out country singer/songwriter Bad Blake, I noted that, in a sense, he had been preparing for and playing up to, in one form or another, that role since the start of his career. The line from Duane in "The Last Picture Show" to Bad in "Crazy", although not a straight, one-dimensional line, has exhibited some familiar mannerism and acting tics. Like, for example, that sense that you come away with after watching Bridges, or rather his characters, that he is always ready to walk away from a bad situation at the drop of a hat. And not look back, and with no regrets. Except, of course, when duty calls for him to "take it on the chin" for the good guys. "Cutter's Way", a film toward the beginning of Bridges long career is an exemplar of just that idea.
In the aftermath of Bridges' Oscar a number of art theaters are putting together and presenting a retrospective of his work. A local theater in the Boston area is one such venue. "Cutter's Way, while no means his best work, is worthy of inclusion in such efforts. Here Bridges plays beach bum, hanging-around guy, semi gigolo, Richard Bone, who seeming cannot be moved off a dead pan, dead-center of existence. Except he has this quirky friend, Cutter, a dysfunctional, psychically and physically wounded Vietnam vet looking for a quick hit at success. The plot line here provides amble opportunity for that after Bone is tangentially involved in a murder case. Needless to say old Cutter means to, come hell or high water, get a pay off from a rich guy who seems to have done the deed. And it goes from there.
Now here is the odd part. Bridges puts in an adequate performance as the blasé roustabout Bone and displays those mannerisms mentioned above that are his trademark. However, old gravelly-voiced, gritty-etched, eye-patched John Heard steals the whole show with his bravado performance. Although Cutter is, in the end, unsuccessful, trying to save his marriage to his long-suffering wife and does not win the prize that he so frantically seeks at that same end able to get Bone off dead-center. Kudos, Cutter/John Heard.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic neo noir, and a great film.,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cutter's Way (Amazon Instant Video)This is, no doubt about it, a great gem of a movie. Do NOT miss this movie. I saw it when it first hit the threatre in 1980 and I've seen it countless times since then -- and will continue to until I'm dead and gone. Great script and terrific acting.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Cutter's Way by Ivan Passer (DVD - 2001)