This is an excellent movie and one of the most consistently underrated. John Heard has never been better, and he is alongside the late J.T. Walsh amongst the most under-appreciated actors ever one of the few mistakes in 'The Sopranos' was to let him go . However, Jeff Bridges yet again proves his credentials by turning in a beautifully nuanced performance as an unattractive, self-absorbed failed playboy in counterpoint to Heard's righteous crippled Vietnam veteran.This is a companion piece to 'Chinatown' in its study of corrupt power structures, but is more intimate and <more>
believable and 'Chinatown' is superb . We still wait for its recent equal in the noir stakes.
"And be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him" (by chaos-rampant)
How many movies can you name where a very grizzly Ahabian figure, peg leg eye patch and all, prowls the seemy backalleys and streets of Los Angeles trying to pin a gruesome murder to a powerful oil baron? The movie starts with very direct Moby-Dick references, Cutter, the one-legged veteran back from Vietnam with scars to last him a lifetime, refers to Bone as Ishmael and the small bar they meet is called The Encantado, before it segues into a pattern of various 70's crime/noirish diversions to very basic human questions, life and death, pain and loss. Cutter is convinced the oil baron is <more>
the man they're looking for, the wealthy upper-class who is above justice and above reproach, yet the movie proves mercifully ambiguous, wonderfully 70's in that aspect.Cutter and Bone never know for sure and neither do we, but at some point it stops to really matter. The movie is not really a whodunit not because we never discover who done it but because we don't care, the movie doesn't care, because at some point Cutter and Bone, lower-class thirtysomethings with broken lives, nowhere to go, and their friendship permanently shattered by something that involved Bone and Cutter's wife, barge into JJ Cord's mansion uninvited, and somehow, in a strange quiet almost surreal way, one-legged Cutter is suddenly riding a white horse through the gardens in a frenzy, stomping party guests and upturning tables in his furious path, like he's back in the Vietnam jungle and running not away from something like enemy soldiers will run from enemy fire but towards it in a final mad dash, and out of the bushes and trees of JJ Cord's mansion emerges Cutter's Way, the movie now pure sublime and primeval, going out in a final upflare of stubborn and dying revenge.Cutter confronts JJ Cord and when he puts on his mirror shades, we understand that we're looking at the personification of Uncle Sam, so that he may not be guilty for that one girl's murder but he's guilty for something, and more, that Cutter is there to strike not at the mysterious old man, but through him, to strike "...all that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick [...] and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him". Perfect. Even Apocalypse Now didn't transfigure the enigma that lies in the heart of its literary source in a way quite as faithful simple and effective.The powerful thematic content and the subtle-but-not-so-subtle way Ivan Passer handles it is one thing Cutter's Way does right. The movie is fierce gritty and stubborn, like its halfmad protagonist striking in fits of rage the air with his cane and shooting holes in the sea, but it's also quiet bittersweet and tender and takes its time to get where it needs to. I like how the crime mystery slowly fades and dissolves in the haze of the hot summer Los Angeles afternoon before it's allowed to become tedious or an end in itself and instead we get to spend time out in the pier or inside cramped living rooms with the heavy curtains pulled, there are empty whiskey bottles on the floor and a soft jazz tune is playing on the pickup. It's like the movie is whispering to itself "there's still time" or maybe "we still have one last night left", because we're looking at people broken who can never be made right again, the pieces were cracked long ago or in faraway places and they can't be found again, so there is this one last night left for everyone. When Bone makes love to Cutter's wife, the one woman he could never conquer, she breaks down and cries. There's not much joy here, but sadness and regret is mixed with a feverish desire for doing things now, even when it's too late.
One of the Best Movies of the '80s & Beyond (by J'Ennui)
When I first saw this movie, during its initial release, I was stunned at how powerful and moving it was. Every aspect of it is outstanding, and the score is one of the most haunting, evocative musical works ever done in cinema history. It was composed by the late, great Jack Nitzsche who worked with a lot of Vietnam era rock'n'roll's best . I took a friend to see it a second time, but he wasn't taken with it. Our friendship didn't last, by the way...I've often thought back on it over the years, and have mentioned it to numerous people, most of whom haven't seen <more>
it, or don't even recognize the title. I saw Lisa Eichhorn on a recent episode of "Law and Order: CI" she's apparently done a lot of L&O's , and I instantly flashed-back to "Cutter's Way". As others here have written, she gave a phenomenal performance in this film, as did John Heard and Jeff Bridges.Although I never read the novel it was based on, and can't find it it's out of print , it's probably just as well. This may be one of those very rare instances where a novel might be a disappointment in comparison to the movie version.I plan to buy the DVD of this movie ASAP, whether or not it has any "extras".
A hauntingly beautiful portrayal of cynicism and the pathetic human condition (by greenscreen2)
I stumbled upon this movie at the Nickelodeon on Cape Cod the year of its release...at a time when VCR's and DVD's weren't a part of our culture...when you had to travel to obscure and far-out theaters to see obscure and far-out films during the fading window of opportunity offered as its limited run at the movie house. What a gem. I was instantly riveted by the story and the classic performances that brought it to life. The pathetic human condition personified in Cutter, Bone, and Mo is so exquisitely rendered as to be tragic...only salvaged by the clear-eyed wit and insight of <more>
John Heard's Cutter and the tempered and logical cynicism and indifference offered up by Bone Jeff Bridges as the balance that only these begrudging friends could provide each other. Lisa Eichorn's character Mo exhibits equal measures of the qualities both her male couterparts have and her subtle performance points up the conflict she feels in simultaneously rejecting and craving their opposing energies. The scene where she chews them both out for their selfish and naive plot and their spirited responses seems to spill from their beings as genuine emotion...not written dialogue...and it still sends chills through me...very powerful...and the scene where she is made painfully aware of Bone's incurable drive to bed women as she falls prey to his momentary sympathies ..when coupled with her husband's Cutter inability to give a soft refuge to her is so tragically realistic...tears flow. Everyone's shortcoming's cross-up everyone else's and as the surrealistic climax develops its symbolism and power are Shakespearian. This movie works as a crime thriller, a portrait of the underbelly of American culture most evidenced in its loss of confidence and embrace of cynicism that came to the surface post-Vietnam...but most successfully as a great character-driven love story and tragedy.
Radically better than anyone could expect.... (by tiarings)
Ostensibly this film appears to be a buddy movie from the 1980s, but it is actually something much more interesting. Employing standard Hollywood clinches with its thriller/ investigation narrative and many of of its "stock" characters and situations, the little guys - Heard and Bridges - take on Mr Fat Cat Capitalist who rules the peacetime world like an untouchable and corrupt monarch. The film, though well-executed and enjoyable, at first seems no more than a well-scripted, well-acted Heard is particularly good as the embittered, crippled Vietnam Veteran genre piece. However, <more>
what emerges by the end is something far more exciting and radical - an indictment of US politics and power relations, and a genuinely bleak reflection on the impossibility and rarity of real justice both at the micro and macro levels. Vietnam and its true significance is used to great effect in the film, as is the interplay between the two buddies. Whilst Bridges won't accept that he has witnessed the ultimate, bleak truth of US power relations until the film's abrupt, punchy end, Heard knows the truth intuitively and automatically because he understands and hates the world from the the start. He has given up on notions such as forgiveness and even the need for legal process, and seeks only revenge on the rich and the powerful. He understands, correctly, that is the only way a kind of momentary justice is possible, since everything else is either controlled by the elites or made to protect them. Without wishing to spoil the film's brilliant final moments, it is here that the whodunnit story is stripped away and the guilt they have been seeking to prove, as Richard Bone realises, becomes entirely political or metaphysical, and the the crime itself becomes irrelevant.
John Heard is excellent, giving off a feisty performance in the title role of this quite intriguing little thriller. It is a bit too meandering to properly keep up the suspense and thrills, however there are still some moments of excitement, and there are also some interesting philosophies, especially about justice in the world. It only has a very run-of-the-mill mystery driving the plot, but there is still enough to the film for it rise above the norm. Although some aspects of Heard's character are not credible, he is an certainly interesting element, and at the very least, the film <more>
Jeff Bridges & John Heard shine in this 80's gem. (by Jimbo-81)
John Heard gives an Oscar-caliber performance in Ivan Passer's psychological-thriller. A well-crafted script delivers the goods from start to finish, and Jack Nitzsche's score complements the story beautifully. A must-see for fans of the genre.
More Relevant Than Ever (by aimless-46)
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 <more>
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. It is an amazing performance as Heard must win audience sympathy for a character who is not only unpleasant, but terribly abusive to everyone- especially 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 wasted 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. 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 peeks 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.
This movie is beautifully shot with a great score that sounds unlike any other score I've ever heard. Then you have a great performance from John Heard and a great screenplay that obviously had a tremendous novel behind it.If you like those gritty late 70s early 80s California noir movies like Straight Time, Who'll Stop The Rain and Chinatown, this is as good as any of those. I have just watched it and I don't think I will forget it anytime soon. It's packed with memorable moments and fully-developed characters.They don't make movies like this anymore. It makes me wonder <more>
what Jeff Bridges thinks about on the set of Iron Man 2 - I've never been a huge fan but the guy did a string of great dramas in the 80s like Fabulous Baker Boys, American Heart and this. He must be thinking "what happened to all those good scripts that used to be knocking around??"