Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cutters Way

Alec Cutter.

It’s not often that Jeff Bridges is in a movie where another actor outshines his performance. The actor in question was the 35 year-old John Heard and the movie in question? The classic American independent film Cutters Way (1981). Heard plays a crippled Vietnam War veteran Alex Cutter maimed in both body and mind. His best friend is Richard Bone (Bridges), a beachside gigolo who sells his body to elderly rich ladies and goes through the motions of being a yacht salesman for his friend George Swanson, without a lot of success. This Californian film noir takes place in the wealthy confines of Santa Barbara where our two companions are low down the social order.
Richard Bone.

One rainy night on the way back from a gainful liaison Richard Bone’s car breaks down in a dark side street, he spots another car, the owner dumps something in a rubbish bin, Bone gets distracted by the horrendous weather and goes on his way. The next morning a young girl is found brutally murdered in the same side street that Bone abandoned his Austin Healey. Questioned by the authorities but due to lack of evidence linking him to the crime, he’s not under suspicion. Later the same day he spots a man he thinks resembles the guy that dumped the body in the rubbish, local tycoon and big wig J.J. Cord! Cutter, along with the dead girls sister, persuades Bone to join them in a plan to prove that Cord carried out the murder.
Mr and Mrs Cutter.

Directed by Czech New Wave émigré Ivan Passer, who defected to the US in 1969, this excellent movie deserved its 30th anniversary reissue in June this year but surely warranted a much wider release. The literate screenplay by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin was based on the 1976 novel Cutter and Bone by author Newton Thornburg who also wrote the novel that the 2009 Australian film drama Beautiful Kate was based upon. John Heard, who was virtually unknown at the time, performed probably the best role of his distinguished career quietly emphasising the hidden motives for the war veterans’ actions i.e. to strike back at a system that sent him to an unjust war and ruining his life. Even this performance tends to be overshadowed by the role of his mentally battered and bruised alcoholic wife Mo played so brilliantly by Lisa Eichhorn, an American actress that been seen more on British TV than in US feature films, both of whom merited far greater recognition. This film is a real gem and proves what good films come out of the USA at times and I can highly recommend it.

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