Rocky Mountain Highs And Lows

The classic male action movie is boiled down to basics-action and more action-in Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger. From the smashing opening, in which rescue climber Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) watches an inexperienced climber slip from his grasp and free-fall to her death, through airplane hijackings, avalanches, chopper crashes and brutal beatings, "Cliffhanger" does its damnedest to see that the audience gets its money's worth of thrills. But for all the state-of-the-art stunt work, the movie has little personality; it's ice cream without flavor. The Michael France/Stallone screenplay is a compendium of cliches so familiar that the movie itself loses interest in them (will Gabe overcome his guilt and climb again?). The plot involves $100 million in stolen Treasury money that falls into the Rockies from a hijacked plane. An evil Brit (John Lithgow) and his henchmen lure Stallone up the mountain to find their treasure and Sly, his ex-partner (Michael Rooker) and his estranged girlfriend (Janine Turner) must foil their nefarious plot. Harlin is willing to sacrifice everything from characterization to plausibility to keep his movie hurtling from climax to climax. The result is a movie that manages to be simultaneously thrilling and bland.