Count this reviewer as someone who always had a lot of time for Cliffhanger, a film that was Sylvester Stallone’s career revival back when it was originally unveiled. At the time the film was released, back in 1993 (just before Jurassic Park would trample all over the summer box office), Stallone’s career wasn’t in a good place. Ill-judged comedies such as Oscar and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and a piss-poor fifth Rocky film had dampened his star significantly, and Cliffhanger was to be his long-championed return to a pure action movie.
And it wasn’t a bad choice at all. With muscles that positively bulged out of his body, a buffed up Stallone did battle with breathtaking mountains, that provided the backdrop for a good, solid action flick. What lifts it is the quite stunning scenery, and a few of the very ambitious action sequences that were clearly filmed at some altitude. Plus there’s the genuinely surprising scene right at the start when Sly – the supposed hero – drops his friend’s girlfriend, leaving her plunging to her doom. This is usually the part of the film where the hero proves their credentials, so to the first big rescue sequence being botched was quite a surprise.
As the film progresses, it gets a little less interested in its physical setting, and becomes more of a standard action flick. But even in its lowest moments, it doesn’t drop below entertaining, and holds up as a perfectly good night’s viewing, even if the impact of seeing it on the big screen is inevitably curtailed in the home.
The Blu-ray release, however, is a bit of a muddle. The picture is generally good, and in some sequences it lifts to quite strong. But you can’t help looking at the picture on your screen and suspecting that it could have used another remaster, or at least just brightening up a bit. You’ll have little doubt that you’re looking at an early 90s movie, simply be looking at your screen. The audio’s a good, strong surround sound mix though, and you’re less likely to have problems with that.
There’s a good number of extra features ported across from DVD releases of the film, albeit nothing new for the Blu-ray edition. So there’s a commentary with Sylvester Stallone and Renny Harlin that’s actually worth a spin, a smattering of featurettes, some deleted scenes that Harlin introduces, and a good making of documentary in there too. It’s quite a good collection, even if it’s nothing that fans of the film are unlikely to have seen before.
What you won’t find on the disc, for some reason, is any subtitles. This, for us, should be a standard, non-optional inclusion, particularly on big Hollywood productions such as this, and it strikes us as slightly cheap that they were left off. In keeping with that theme, the box copy manages to spell the name of Stallone’s character in two different ways, which doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Still, Cliffhanger remains a fun movie, and this Blu-ray is a good presentation of it, even if it doesn’t really present the compelling reason to upgrade from the last DVD edition.