Interesting American Drama
- Cutter's Way review by GI
Cutter's Way fits into the cycle of American films of the 70s and early 80s that can be described as conspiracy narratives. It's also a relationship drama and taps into the American obsession with the Vietnam War and the dark underbelly of society centred around the haves and the have nots. Jeff Bridges, who is riveting here, plays Rich, a young gigolo and drifter who is temporarily staying with his alcoholic friends Alex (John Heard) and Mo (Lisa Eichhorn). Alex is a traumatised Vietnam veteran who has lost an eye, arm and is partially crippled, and Mo is his unhappy wife who is attracted to Rich. The setting of California with its sunny and wealthy lifestyle creates a contrast with these three who are all struggling in one way of another. The drama is set off when Rich inadvertently sees a man dump a woman's body in an alley and the two men become convinced the culprit is a very rich and powerful oil baron. With no evidence Alex comes up with a plan to blackmail him proving he's the killer if he pays up. It all goes tragically wrong. This is less a film about the crime than one about obsession over injustice and unfairness centred around money, sex and, indeed, human beauty. There is little doubt it has three wonderful central performances particularly Heard and Bridges. Viewed today it's somewhat of a challenge as the themes are not as relevant and the film loses its meanings in a narrative that drifts along and is focused on character rather than plot. But it's an interesting film worthy checking out if you've not seen it.
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The Big Bone was a title not used in the end, but Jeff Bridges never forgot that title.
- Cutter's Way review by DS
Cutter's Way is a film that sneaked under my radar way back in the early eighties when I was a teenager and with subsequent showings on TV which I am guessing there must have been, its style and story seem set up perfectly for late-night Saturday night showings on BBC2 when I was in my twenties but even I cannot see every film.
When I was a young man in his twenties I would have loved this and it has to be said despite it being of its time with a few moments that rightfully would have to be handled carefully in this day and age it is still a well-acted, well-directed enjoyable romp despite the content which, let us make no mistake, is dark from the beginning to the end.
Cutter's Way is certainly of a ‘type’ with the two main characters whilst both likable in their own way are ‘off the normal path’ and in real life would be avoided by a country mile by most of us.
Alex Cutter is played by a noticeably young John Heard, the late actor here is unrecognisable if you only know him from his later work. Cutter is a rage-filled, drunken and disabled by war veteran. More or less embodying the Vietnam rage felt by many Heard enjoys bringing all of his acting tools to the fore. Some scenes showing the pent-up rage and impotence of his character are actorly and exceedingly dramatic but within the context of the story and characters it a cinematic device that can be forgiven.
The mystery of the murder and who committed it takes a step out of focus and we are plunged into the nuances of the relationship between Bone, Cutter and Mo and the complicated and fractious set of protagonists.
The stunningly handsome and languid Jeff Bridges despite being a drifter with little focus is front and centre and the moral guide, trying at all turns to save Cutter from himself and comfort and console Mo his much put-upon wife.
Lisa Eichhorn given the difficult role of Mo is at least given something to do other than just being the ‘wife’ but herein lies the problem as she is sidelined for longer periods and although Cutter is damaged his treatment of his problematical to say the least, but nevertheless Eichhorn holds her own against the male heavyweights and is memorable.
So far so good, Cutter's Way seems to be a buddy movie from the early 80s with two loveable but wacky main characters supported by Eichhorn and Ann Dusenberry, the vengeful sister, and the establishment friend Arthur Rosenberg, both creditable. In reality clearly, the makers, and the original novel I suspect, is an indictment of the relationship between the small people and the wealth and power of the USA. Corruption and power rule the roost and justice for the small and weak is rare, if not impossible with the not long passed Vietnam War the pivot on which the tale revolves.
This theory taken to an extreme means that Cutter has seen the corruption and uncaring nature of power, or J.J. Cord (an oil baron surprise, surprise), and Bone is an aware but naïve American public. It seems obvious to me but if you miss this point, it is underlined, Cutter tossing an innocent child’s toy into the Ocean and then shooting it to shreds, Bone taking the gun off him and throwing it away – and so forth.
If you do miss this, or do not agree, Cutter's Way is still a great murder revenge tale about a corrupt man intending to get away with literal murder. On this level is quirky, well-acted and fun. It has aged well, there are few ‘N’ references and some spousal abuse, so not cool, but within the context of the characters and story you should be able to let them pass with perhaps a modicum of bad taste in your mouth.
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