Cutter’s Way Review

He really ties a film together.

That’ll be Jeff Bridges then, a man who lives up to the legacy of his moniker and an actor whose eclecticism in the films he chooses will only be reinforced by the re-release of this cult 80’s film Cutter’s Way.

The film opens with a shirtless man trimming his moustache in a bathroom mirror, while an older woman watches him from underneath the covers. This is Richard Bone, another man who lives up to every inch of his slightly preposterous name, who is still happy getting by on his looks and body even though they’re just starting to fade with age.

After exchanging some vaguely barbed pleasantries with his date for the evening, Bone quickly makes his excuses and exits stage left. And you know this isn’t the first or the last time Bone’s done this.

In a case of life imitating a con-artist, Bone’s car stalls in some back street on his drive home from the hotel. While deciding what to do with his now impotent vehicle, rain lashing down outside, Bone accidentally witnesses an incident he can’t walk away from.

Another car stops behind him and the driver hurriedly dumps something in the darkness before speeding away, almost knocking Bone down in the process.

This experience persuades Bone to give up on his car for the night, and the rain forces him into a nearby bar before he can indulge his natural curiosity as to what was dumped by that errant driver.

Here he runs into his close friend, Alex Cutter, regaling the speakeasy regulars with some of his acerbic wit.

Another man who lives up to his name then.

Where Bone’s drug of choice is narcissism, Cutter’s poison is a little more obvious. And dangerous to boot, for several drinks too many leads to Cutter souring the evening’s ambiance with a racial slur.

As ever, Cutter manages to talk his way out of trouble. It seems that he’s always been this way, or perhaps Cutter’s sharpened his mind by way of compensating for his missing left eye, arm and leg that he lost in Vietnam.

To lose one is understandable, but all three is very careless.

Still, this odd couple seem to make a better unit than Cutter and his long suffering wife, Mo; another soul lost to the self destructive effects of drugs and alcohol.

These three’s tragically happy dysfunctionality is shattered when the police show up at the Cutter’s residence and take Bone in as a witness to murder.

That something dumped in the garbage the other night turned out to be a murdered young girl. Now Cutter and Bone start to unravel these events to see if they can get to the bottom of this mystery, before it gets to them.

Cutter’s Way is being re-released at the BFI Southbank to mark their Jeff Bridges season this summer, and is an early example of the presence and breadth of role this actor has maintained for over three decades.

Bridges portrayal of Richard Bone, a happily clueless butterfly boy, could even be a younger version of The Dude; his cult character from the Coen brother’s classic The Big Lebowski that deservedly reinvigorated Bridges popularity back in the nineties.

John Heard, most famous for his character roles in anything from Home Alone films to The Soprano’s, is equally convincing as Alex Cutter; a man looking for a reason to live again after leaving more than just parts of his anatomy in Vietnam.

The characterisation of Cutter and Bone is king, even to the detriment of the script. A somewhat flimsy premise is only maintained by the nuanced characterisation and interplay of the two leads; three including the poised calm of Lisa Eichorn as Mo, who completes the final point in this incestuous love triangle.

The impression throughout Cutter’s Way is that Bone is indebted to Cutter in some way, yet this is never really explained.

Between the two of them, they just about comprise one fully functioning man. But they both seem to recognise this, which may explain why Bone and Cutter are so inseparable.

The ending was at first glance, deeply unsatisfactory. After a couple of day’s reflection though, it kind of grows on you. As does the old school cinematic technique Cutter’s Way employs of making a film compelling by having great actors, instead of great special effects; or even worse, as oxymoronic as it sounds, a great marketing campaign.

Of course, you know, that’s just like my opinion man.

Jonathan Campbell

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June 2011
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