Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Janine Turner, and John Lithgow
Director: Renny Harlin
113 minutes (15) 1993
Studio Canal 4K Ultra HD
Review by Christopher Geary
With the possible exception of his SF blockbusters, Demolition Man (1993), and Judge Dredd (1995), this contemporary adventure thriller is arguably Stallone’s best movie. From the director of horror movie Prison (1987), actioner Die Hard 2 (1990), and spy-thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), its premise - of tough mountain-rescue experts in a brutal clash with a ruthless gang of thieves - plays upon our fears of heights and falling, with vertiginous camera-work and artfully-staged stunts, in a few instances, very cleverly faked in the relative safety of a studio-set, to achieve a maximum visual impact.
Stallone plays Gabe Walker, a rock climber struck down with guilt and shame after failing to save another rescue worker’s girlfriend during the first scenes. Months later, when he returns to pick up his belongings and see former lover, Jessie (Janine Turner, from TV’s weird soap, Northern Exposure), Gabe is unwittingly caught up in a botched attempt to steal $100 million from a US Treasury jet. This daring mid-air heist results in loss of the cash somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
To make a bad situation worse, there’s a storm moving in and so, initially, helicopters cannot be used. Press-ganged into service as a money finder, this leaves the muscular Stallone slogging through heavy snow, leaping off high ledges, dodging bullets, squirming up a narrow chimney, rappelling down sheer rock walls, escaping a collapsing rope bridge, and generally shrugging off enough fire- and fistfights to bury a whole army of normal people. Rarely has Stallone’s movie persona appeared quite as super-heroic.
The immensely talented John Lithgow leads the crooks, though he’s practically matched in audacity by a traitorous government agent, and in sheer viciousness by top thugs - who are both doomed, of course! - Craig Fairbrass (Beyond Bedlam) and Leon (from Bats). Michael Rooker deserves special mention as Hal Tucker, Stallone’s rescue mission partner, although it must be said that Rooker has never managed to live up to the promise of his mesmerising title role in the low-budget cult classic Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.
Superb alpine cinematography by Alex Thomson creates a striking backdrop for various action sequences, with panoramic views from dizzying overhangs and stone towers. The miniature effects and the rather obvious studio-sets do not affect the climactic punch-up on a crashed helicopter. In the wake of Sly’s original Rambo trilogy and his various Rocky pictures, this skilfully constructed winner established Stallone as the only crowd-pleasing American action hero to rival Schwarzenegger.
Personal introduction by Renny Harlin
Commentary track with Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone
Technical crew commentary
Making-of featurette: Stallone On The Edge
Special effects: Sarah’s fall & the helicopter explosion