Cliffhanger (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray, Steelbook)

A botched mid-air heist results in suitcases full of cash being searched for by various groups throughout the Rocky Mountains.

September 7, 2023 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

It occurred to me how good a year 1993 was for movies. The critically-acclaimed like Schindler’s List, The Fugitive and Philadelphia; but also, the ones that were just fun to watch like Dazed and Confused, Jurassic Park and Groundhog Day. That’s not to say that other years didn’t have their share of hits, but to me 1993 was a diamond in the rough.  And with the 80’s over, Stallone’s Rocky and Rambo franchises ensured that he’d never have to worry about money again, let alone look for any more acting parts. He produced and co-wrote the script based “off an idea” from a few other writers and so, Cliffhanger was born.

Gabe (Sylvester Stallone) is a very talented Rocky Mountain Rescue worker. He and partner Hal (Michael Rooker) and Hal’s girlfriend get stranded a top the “tower” and need rescued. A seemingly routine rescue becomes deadly as Gabe drops Hal’s girlfriend to her death, in an attempt to save her life. Not knowing how to deal with the grief, he leaves town for nearly a year, only to return to gather his things and get caught up in a little adventure along the way. This leads us to the other half of the film – the bad guys. Treasury agent Travers (Rex Linn), a dedicated agent who has come to the decision that this shipment of $100 million dollars was just a little too tempting to pass up (can we blame him?).d Travers has teamed with Eric Qualen (John Lithgow) who has the international connections to move the sort of currency that happens to be on this particular shipment. So, it’s all set…hijack the plane, take out anyone not with them, split the cash and retire? Wrong, as usual something goes wrong and the suitcases, hi tech ones at that, are scattered across a 30 mile radius of the Rocky Mountains. Feigning help, the surviving members of the plane crash call for help. Gabe and Hal come to the rescue. But what the terrorists really want is a helicopter so they can get out of there. Because they know the turf so well, Gabe and Hal are taken prisoner and forced to help locate the missing suitcases full of money, but they both know that once found, both Gabe and Hal are dead.

It’d been a while since I sat down and watched this film and ironically this was the first movie I saw as a “screener.” I worked in a video store (logically) and was amazed that I could see this film long before it hit VHS. Yes, VHS. My college life aside, I have always enjoyed this film and while it might be considered “Die Hard on a mountain”, it’s fun to watch. Ironically, director Renny Harlin directed Die Hard‘s sequel. Small world. The stunt work and choreography are all top notch as was the opening place sequence in which two planes were hooked together with a stunt man sliding from one to the other. The stunt was so dangerous that it took a $1 million dollar insurance policy to film. Stallone deducted that from his salary to pay for it. Wasn’t that nice? Yes, there are some tired clichés, but I found the film enjoyable and always have.

Video: How does it look?

Sony went the extra mile here with this 4K disc while offering a new transfer with Dolby Vision. I have said about 4K discs is that they’re sometimes too dark for my liking. I understand to some that this may be more as intended by the filmmakers, but it can get to me a bit. With that being said, I didn’t have this issue with this film. In fact, this is one of the better 4K transfers I have seen. The darkness issue wasn’t a problem, and details were strong throughout. I can’t speak of the previous 4K disc as I only viewed the Blu-Ray and other formats before, but this is clearly the one to own. The image is 2.40:1 and should be viewers preferred method when viewing the film.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Atmos track is also solid. The opening sequence alone draws us into this world. The film has no shortage of action, so the track engages us early on and often to create an involving experience. Of course, the vocals have the expected clarity, so that’s always a plus. The rear channels all stayed active and little details such as ice melting and bullets going off and explosions all add up to make this a winning experience.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The big draw to this set is the Steelbook packaging, new transfer, and some new deleted scenes. The rest of the legacy features are all included here as well.

  • Deleted Scenes – This is the new addition and is found on the 4K disc. These go for a bit under 10 minutes all told. Don’t get too excited as these don’t add a whole lot to the film. There are several here, but some only last a few seconds, while others are a bit more extended than that. Their addition is most welcome even if viewing one time is all that’s needed from me.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Renny Harlin and Actor Sylvester Stallone are featured and it’s not that bad either. No two people would really know more about the movie than the director and lead actor (who also helped write the screenplay), so it’s very informative with a lot of information about the production, the shoot and some of the stunts therein.
  • Audio Commentary – The second is a technical commentary, and it’s interesting as well, though I couldn’t sit through the movie one more time to listen to the techs talk about everything, put it this way…it’s nice to have there if that’s your thing.
  • A Personal Introduction from Renny Harlin – Director Renny Harlin gives us an intro. to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – Two are included: King’s Leap and Ice Climb, both with an optional introduction from Harlin.
  • Stallone on the Edge: The Making of Cliffhanger – A vintage piece complete with interviews with Stallone (on the set of Demolition Man) and the basic concepts for the film are explored. Some of the stunts, including the unbelievable jump that was cut from the film (but still in the trailers) as well as some behind the scenes footage.
  • Special Effects – Two key sequences are explored: Sarah’s Fall and Helicopter Explosion. We get a look at the semantics as to how these were achieved.
  • Storyboard Comparisons – Pretty explanatory, some rough designs are shown translated to the final product.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Previews – Some other Sony, now very dated, titles are included.

The Bottom Line

Cliffhanger has held up surprisingly well. Not all of it works, but it keeps things moving along nicely, and features some truly gripping sequences. This new 4K set offers a great new transfer, some solid extras and steelbook packaging. For newcomers, this is the obvious choice. The question is if the new transfer and some deleted scenes are worth the upgrade for those who own it already. The steelbook is certainly attractive, but it’s a niche market. The decision is up to you, but the content is great.

Disc Scores