Cliffhanger is basically “Die Hard on a mountain.” A totally radical idea for the totally radical 90’s. I wasn’t surprised to learn a mountain climber came up with the concept. Sylvester Stallone struggled in the early 90’s, but Cliffhanger was just the moderate success he needed. Just a cheesy action flick with a suspension of disbelief the size of a mountain. Stallone plays fearless rescue ranger Gabe Walker. A man haunted by the one mountain climber he couldn’t save. The opening fall is actually more upsetting than I was expecting.
Gabe comes out of retirement John McClane style in a desperate fight for survival. He’s joined by Janine Turner as his rescue ranger girlfriend and supported by Michael Rooker as the rescue ranger who blames him for his girlfriend’s death. I had no idea Stallone and Rooker worked together before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Cliffhanger starts out relatively tame, then gets very profane and violent when the bad guys enter the picture. John Lithgow plays obvious Hans Gruber stand-in Eric Qualen.
While putting on a ridiculous British accent, Qualen leads a rough gang of thieves who systematically rob a plane for the U.S. Treasury. They all search for three suitcases containing money that they lose in the mountain. Walker and his crew take out each sadistic criminal one by one. I had no idea how an action movie could be set on the side of a cliff, but it’s not too over-the-top. Even in the end when Walker and Qualen face off on a falling helicopter. Cliffhanger hangs on long enough to make an impression.