Plot: What’s it about?
After a tragic accident with an inexperienced climber, mountain rescue worker Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) is destroyed mentally and leaves his previous lifestyle behind. Nine months later, Gabe comes back to start over and rekindle the fires with his true love, Jessie (Janine Turner). When he arrives he learns of a routine rescue mission about to be embarked upon, so he joins Jessie and his best friend Hal (Michael Rooker) to rescue five trapped climbers before time runs out for them. But once they’re on the scene, it seems as though nothing is as they expected. The trapped climbers are really a group of criminals who suffered a bad transaction, and have lost thirty-million dollars in the mountains. Now that they’ve been rescued they want their money to be saved also, and will do whatever it takes to regain it. After a series of events, it all comes down to Gabe, who must rescue his friends, capture the money, and stay alive long enough to thwart the criminals. But when you’re surrounded by icy peaks, freezing cold temperatures, and thieves armed with automatic weapons, survival isn’t as easy as it sounds.
My reactions to this release are two fold, as I am very pleased with the film itself, but I am overjoyed with the treatment Columbia has given it here. When Cliffhanger was first released, I was very disappointed with the lack of features but decided to pick it up anyway, since I liked the movie a lot. When I saw the specifications listed when this re-release was announced, I was almost stunned. While the dizzying list of bonus materials was impressive on paper, I was even more pleased in person with this disc, very cool supplements, not just some stuff tossed on for the sake of extras. The supplements actually enhance the enjoyment of the film, which is not often the case by any means. As far as the movie goes, this is a must have for me as I’m sure it is for most action lovers out there. The stunts are excellent, they look awesome and grand in scale as well as being pretty realistic also. For an action movie the storyline is actually good, with some human emotion exploration you might not expect. I recommend the movie to all those who love a fun ride with a movie, and with this lush of a disc, a purchase is called for, even if you’re a casual fan of the film.
This film was directed by Renny Harlin, who seems to have found his niche with big budget action movies. While the focus of his films is the action and stunts involved, they also contain some complex characters, at least most of them do. His camera moves fast, but not too fast and he loves to let his camera soak up natural beauty, which comes across here often. While not all his films have been financial successes, Harlin does know how to entertain his audience, so I can’t criticize him too much. Joining this film on Harlin’s resume are Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Deep Blue Sea, and more. The lead in this film is played by action superstar Sylvester Stallone, who also helped write the screenplay. Stallone (Rocky, Demolition Man) is at his finest here in his natural element. He seems at home in every scene, and I think this is his best work of the 90s, at least as far as action movies go. The impressive supporting cast includes Janine Turner (Monkey Shines, Steel Magnolias), Leon (Cool Runnings, Bats), Paul Winfield (Relax…It’s Just Sex), John Lithgow (A Civil Action, The Pelican Brief), and one of my personal favorites, master thespian Michael Rooker (Brown’s Requiem, Days of Thunder).
Video: How does it look?
Cliffhanger is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While this is not a perfect visual presentation, it does offer a terrific looking version of the film. The colors appear bold and vivid, with no bleeding or oversaturation, although flesh tones do seem a little unnatural at times. The contrast is excellent, with distinct and well defined shadows and no detail loss at all to be found. I did see some minor compression errors, but nothing that was distracting and the source print looks very good as well.
Audio: How does it sound?
If you’re looking for a disc that will shake the foundations, then look no more, this is your release. Whether it’s high octane action scenes or natural directional pans, this Dolby Digital 5.1 track handles all the audio with no trouble whatsoever. The surrounds see plenty of action throughout, but when the action picks up, they explode with power. Every speaker in the joint will need a few hours off after this workout, to be sure. But even with all that audio power booming, the dialogue comes through clear and clean, with no volume issues at all.
Supplements: What are the extras?
While the original release of this film was about as bare as they come, this time around there’s more supplements than you shake a stick at. In fact this title is the latest entry in Columbia’s Collector’s Series line, which has become one of the best labels you can find these days. You’ll find not one but two audio commentaries on this disc, which combine to offer an all encompassing view into the movie’s production. The first track features director Renny Harlin and actor Sylvester Stallone, who give an entertaining and informative track. Harlin does most of the talking, but Stallone has some interesting comments as well. The second track features several members of the technical crew, who discuss the special effects found within the movie. This is a guide to how they did what, to be sure, and some it was quite a surprise. A personal introduction from Renny Harlin is also included, in which he prepares you for all the goodies your eyes are about to see. Three sequences from the film are offered in film-to-storyboard comparisons, which are very well done and are interesting to view. You can also view two sequences in before and after special effects mode, which is also a nifty inclusion. A twenty minute behind the scenes featurette, Stallone: On The Edge is on this disc and makes for a fun way to spend some time. This one’s not that deep, but is fun and provides some behind the scenes glimpses. A pair of deleted scenes also make the cut, along with two still photo galleries, talent files, production notes on the liner insert, and the theatrical trailer, which also has an introduction from Harlin. All in all, one of the finest single disc offerings on the market, way to go Columbia!