White Men Can’t Jump – Cliffhanger – tape 1867

First, another Movie Channel presentation, of Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump. An amiable enough story of a couple of basketball hustlers, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, trying to get by in Los Angeles.

Now, I used to play basketball at school, so I ought to enjoy this, but my sport-blindness just makes this a blur of snarking, shouting, slow-motion ball bouncing and some low-grade thuggery.

I think it says a lot when my interest level only rose when Harrelson’s girlfriend, Rosie Perez, went on the quiz show Jeopardy, and started winning big with ‘Foods starting with a Q’

Before the next movie, a snatch from the end of The Movie Show.

Then, Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger, one of the better entries in Sylvester Stallone’s back catalogue. I’m sure I’ve already looked at this in the blog, but I can’t find anything, so I must have imagined it.

The film starts in fine form, with some great aerial photography, and a perilous rescue that goes horribly wrong, plunging Stallone’s mountaineer into a deep pit of despair, unlike his rescue subject who plunges into a deep pit of rocks, fatally.

8 months later, and we cut to a US Treasury office preparing to transport a large amount of banknotes by air, because nobody’s ever hijacked a treasury aeroplane.

And Stallone is returning to the scene of the opening disaster, having spent time away. His girlfriend Jessie is played by Janine Turner off of Northern Exposure. I like to imagine the hotshot movie executives meeting to discuss casting the movie. “Which chicks look good in a parka?”

Stallone and Janine Turner

 

To nobody’s surprise, the treasury plane is hijacked, but the heist goes a bit wrong, and three large cases of money are lost on the mountainside, so the gang of villains, led by John Lithgow, have to use trackers to find them. They lure Stallone and his partner, Michael Rooker, to their crash site, and quickly coerce them to help locate the cases.

Lithgow is at his most villainous in the movie. He’s so villainous, he has to affect an English accent. His gang includes Caroline Goodall and Craig Fairbrass, both of whom are British, so perhaps the makers were going for a Hans Gruber, Die Hard vibe here. I’m certain “Die Hard on a mountain” was used during pitch meetings on this project.

Being a Renny Harlin film, it doesn’t stint on the violence. He’s at pains to remind us frequently that Lithgow and his cronies are utterly villainous. They gun down a couple of airhead teen climbers, just to be villainous. Lithgow even shoots Goodall dead to gain leverage over another of the gang when they’re at loggerheads. And to top it all off, and to cement their place as the most villainous villains ever, they gun down Ralph Waite, Pa Walton himself,

Poor Pa Walton

The score, from Trevor Jones, sounds suspiciously like Alan Silvestri’s Predator score at times, but it’s big and bombastic and does the job. And it’s nice to see Michael Rooker cast in a good guy role for once.

The recording continues, and the next film (which we get 20 minutes of ) is The Furious, a hong kong movie I’m not familiar with.

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3 comments

  1. I have both the soundtrack albums for the movie (the 1993 one on cassette, which when it was licensed for the UK put one of the tracks on the wrong side, and the expansion). My worst memory of seeing the movie is when some dickhead in the audience responded to poor Sarah falling to her death with “One down.” I wanted to smack her (yes, it was a woman)… actually, 23 years later I still do.

  2. They say a lot of the reason Cliffhanger became a big hit and revived Stallone’s career for the umpteenth time was its trailer. Check it out on YouTube, it really is fantastic, almost better than the (pretty good) film.

  3. “The score, from Trevor Jones, sounds suspiciously like Alan Silvestri’s Predator score at times”
    The funny thing is Renny Harlin did actually use the predator score, as a temp track, on the workprint of Cliffhanger.

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