Back in 1981, director Ivan Passer adapted the novel 'Cutter and Bone' by Newton Thornburg into a feature film titled, 'Cutter's Way' that starred a young John Heard (Home Alone) and Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski). It never really did well financially at its initial release, but over the years, more and more audiences have been turned on to this odd thriller about a few friends trying to solve a murder themselves. Critics and audiences alike have both taken a liking to it, although the film isn't for everyone, due to its slow pace and slow burn tension throughout.
More often than not, Passer and writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin wanted to show just how far three friends would go to figure out the truth in what they think they saw one night in an alleyway. Not any one character is particularly the "good" guy in the traditional sense, as it seems like everyone has a secret. In a way, this is a modern noir film with oddballs that leaves the action beats on the back burner until the final scene.
'Cutter's Way' is certainly intriguing, but goes off on too many tangents, instead of sticking to the main story instead. I get that Passer wanted to show us more of these characters and their downward spirals into the madness they create, but the conspiracy theory angle should have been front and center the whole time. The film follows Alex Cutter (John Heard), a one-eyed war veteran who drinks too much and always blaming the government for everything, who helps his friend Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) witness someone in a dark alley thrown something in the trash, which turns out to be a dead body, after Bone's car breaks down at the scene.
He soon becomes a suspect, but Bone is convinced that the oil mogul J.J. Cord is to blame. Bone and Cutter, along with the victim's sister and Cutter's wife plan to set a trap for J.J. Cord to get him to admit to the murder, but not everything is as it seems. Bridges and Heard turn in solid performances with Heard shining over everyone. His physical acting here as the drunken war veteran is something of amazing. Passer definitely lets the suspense gather up into a ball throughout the film, but at a slow pace and the romantic interests of both Cutter and Bone are less than desired as they take away from the main story at hand.
That being said, you want these characters to take the right path at any point in the film, but time after time, they take the other path, as we see their downfall with each passing minute. The film leaves a lasting impression for sure and is one of those memorable modern noir films that catches you off guard. Jack Nitzsche's score always adds to the tension and drama in each scene.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Cutter's Way' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from Twilight Time that is Region A Locked. It is limited to 3,000 copies and comes with a booklet insert that contains an essay from Julie Kirgo. The disc itself is housed in a hard, clear plastic case with reversible cover art.
'Cutter's Way' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film is 35 years old and still looks great with this new transfer, despite a few problems that it has. There are varying degrees of how sharp and vivid the movie looks here. The detail can look great in closeups that show individual hairs in beards and some facial blemishes in good lighting, but other than that, the image has a softness to it. Wider shots look good, but again, a bit soft. That being said, detail is fairly strong, just not super vivid.
There is a nice layer of grain for the most part, however there are moments where the grain is quite heavy. Some shots look out of focus too. Colors are natural and pop nicely. The blues and browns look great here. Black levels are mostly deep and inky, but are on the light side of things in a few scenes, but the skin tones are natural. There are some instances of some dirt and speckling throughout, but no other issues are seen here. For a film that is 35 years old, this image has held up, with a natural and filmic look.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 1.0 mix and sounds very good for being a mono mix. I wouldn't say this is a fully immersive track with tons of action moments, but it gets the job done nicely. Sound effects are well-balanced and layered with the ambient noises coming in full.
It's just not a fully immersive surround sound experience. The score by Jack Nitzsche always adds to the suspense and drama of the film without drowning out any other sound. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and high shrills.
Audio Commentary - Twilight Time employees Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo talk about the film's themes, story, characters and the late 1970's and early 80's, in which this film takes place. It's a decent discussion if you love the film.
Isolated Score Track - You can pick the music only track that comes in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo.
Trailers (HD, 5 Mins.) - Trailers for the film.
Booklet - Twilight Time has a booklet included here with an essay by Julie Kirgo.
'Cutter's Way' is a fantastic look at a few lonely people who never seem to make a right decision and always seem to choose the wrong path. It's a dark movie for sure, but it's quite entertaining. The performances are all excellent and story is very intriguing. I'm just glad this film found it's way back to life here. The video and audio presentations are both passable and the commentary track is worth listening to for some insight. Recommended!