Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cutter’s Way (1981)

I hate this cliché but what the hell... they don't make 'em like this any more. If they're not big enough words for you, then here’s another sweeping statement: Alex Cutter is one of the greatest characters ever committed to celluloid.

I saw this as part of the Jeff Bridges retrospective at the NFT, The Dude Abides but it's John Heard as the eponymous Cutter who steals the film. The role would have been a gift to any actor. Thank heaven it wasn’t wasted on Heard. The one-eyed, double amputee 'Nam veteran staggers around on his stick, raging against the world and everyone in it. The yin to his yang is Richard Bone (Bridges). Bone is a handsome, stylish ladies’ man while the eye-patched Cutter is a shambolic drunk and, in his own words, “a cripple”. Bone is charming whereas Cutter enjoys being rude. Bone is diplomatic and Cutter is consistently inappropriate.

One rainy night in Santa Barbara, Bone witnesses a murder and suspects it is a local wealthy businessman. Cutter insists they bring him to justice and pursues the opportunity with Ahab-like zeal.

Bridges holds his own in the less flashy role. He should be commended for not being acted off screen by such a lunatic performance. Similarly, think Cruise in Rain Man or Wahlberg in The Fighter both lending overlooked support, respectively, to the oscar-winning Hoffman and Bale. No such acknowledgements for Cutter’s Way, however. Its release was botched by United Artists and was ultimately bulldozed at the box office by the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Arthur, and that other eye-patch flick, Escape from New York. While I have no problem with any of these films, it is indicative of an ending of a golden age of cinema. Cutter’s Way is a seventies hangover with that decade’s depth and sense of purpose. Suffice to say, it was widely shunned by eighties audiences.

NB: It is readily available on DVD and an essential part of any film enthusiast’s collection.


  1. Cheers Will. I am so going to get this as soon as possible.

  2. Fantastic movie. At times moving, at times ludicrous, always riveting.

    It USP is that nearly all the action and narrative events happen off-screen. This adds to the ambiguity in an ambiguity-laden scenario. And it all lends the final scenes, which could be hilarious, an insane raw power.

    Sometimes it can feel like the more new movies I see that less new things I see but this is one of those rare examples of something that comes from left-field and reaffirms your belief in cinema.