Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Quality movies that get lost in the Kafka-esque cinematic purgatory of Hollywood studio shuffles are too numerous to mention but one amazing gem of a film called “Cutter’s Way” luckily managed to climb itself out of the wreckage in 1981 and has now gone on to cult status taking its rightful place in this blog as a Retro Classic Revival.
Based on the cynical hard-hitting post- Watergate novel “Cutter and Bone” (the title originally used by the film only later to be carelessly tossed out by studio heads concerned audiences would fear the movie was presumably about surgeons or those in the meat-processing industry…) by American thriller writer Newton Thornburg, “Cutter’s Way” is probably the film- with it’s fog of dread and doom hanging over its unlikely duo of anti-heroes- that Alfred Hitchcock would’ve made had he lived into the early ‘80’s.
Ostensibly a buddy film, Jeff Bridges once again hits another home run (his list of acting choices up to and including “Cutter”- inc. “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”, “The Last Picture Show”, “Hearts of the West”, etc. being one of the grandest runs for any actor ever) as the seemingly-shallow narcissistic character, Richard Bone, who’s only goal is trolling the sleepy boating SoCal town for MILF’s, who ends up reluctantly teaming with his vitriolic amputee Vietnam vet friend, Alex Cutter, (played with the over the top gusto of a raging pirate by the underrated John Heard) as they enter into the treacherous and sinister world of investigating a corporate fat cat for the possible brutal murder of a young local girl.
Bridges character, who stands for nothing, has to confront the raging demons of the obsessed Cutter who will stop at nothing to extract his teeming pound of flesh in vengeance against the sinister towers of evil corporate complicity in the age old pressing of the levers of power that he feels is responsible for society’s ills.
The director of “Cutter’s Way” is Czech filmmaker Ivan Passer (“Intimate Lightning” and screenwriter on Milos Forman’s “Loves of a Blonde”) who brings the appropriate jaundiced eye of an outsider to the cinematic proceedings and artfully guides this shaggy dog tale of obsession and post-Vietnam malaise irrevocably towards its harrowing conclusion.
The screenwriter for “Cutter’s Way”- Jeffrey Alan Fiskin- does yeomen’s work in doing what is almost the impossible nowadays in taking an already brilliant novel and actually giving it an upgrade with his taut and intensely driven screen adaptation all the while saving the hard boiled dialogue of its title characters.
Kudos also goes to the eerie musical score by veteran Jack Nitzsche (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”)- for setting the tone of sinister mystery during the haunting opening titles.
Though “Cutter’s Way” has managed to build up a small following throughout the subsequent years of it’s very limited original release, this is a movie that cries out to be appreciated even more by audiences today so they can discover the riches of this genuine American masterpiece which continues to bear fruit upon repeated viewings.
Available on a limited numbered Blu-ray release by specialty dvd company Twilight Time, this classic is calling out for a no holds barred Criterion Collection joint complete with all the bells and whistles of extra features their esteemed company is known for.
They say time heals all wounds but one thing I know for sure: time also reveals which films live on as classics and “Cutter’s Way”, with it’s timeless theme of finding one’s fleeting but necessary search for their moral bearings in a dangerous world of faceless corporations wielding the levers of power has never been more relevant.
Viva La Cinema!