Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) was just your friendly everyday mountain rescue worker, happily flying to the rescue in the Rockies with his helicopter-pilot girlfriend Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner, from Northern Exposure), until his best friend Hal Tucker took his completely untrained girlfriend to climb to the summit of a cliff. Of course, this lead to her horrifying death hundreds of feet below when the rescue equipment failed to function properly.note The end credits are careful to point out that the design of her harness was specifically altered for the film. In spite of Gabe's valiant efforts, Tucker blamed him for the tragedy. Gabe, being the good-hearted musclehead that he is, took the blame to heart and left the mountains in guilt and grief.18 months later, Gabe came back to pick up his things from Jessie, just in time to be the only climber qualified enough to reach a band of plane crash survivors trapped in the mountains by a snowstorm. Partnering himself with Tucker, who still hated him, the duo reached the plane......only to find the distress signal to be a ruse of Eric Qualen (John Lithgow of 3rd Rock from the Sun), a maniacal terrorist leader leading a band of mercenaries who have just lost $100 million worth of Federal Bearer Bonds they hijacked during the crash. Gabe and Tucker are captured and forced to help the terrorists get their ill-gotten money...
This film provides examples of:
Amazon Chaser: The only member of his team Qualen actually admires is The Squadette, Kristel, who's notably smarter than the rest of his mooks (when making the fake distress call, she claims that one of their party is running out of insulin so the rescue team won't wait till after the storm). Subverted later in a Kick the Dog moment when Qualen shoots her dead solely to force the hand of another rebellious team member.
Qualen(watching her plant an explosive booby trap): You'll make a good wife for someone one day.
Chekhov's Gun: Tucker quickly pockets Frank's knife while nobody is looking. It comes in very handy later.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: For all his tactical expertise, Qualen sure is a lousy judge of character to form a band of henchmen that do not even like each other, much less trust and cooperate with each other.
Never My Fault: Oh sure, Hal, it was Gabe's fault you brought your girlfriend, who had no experience in climbing whatsoever, on a climbing trip. Or never bothered to check her harness, and assured her it was safe to go across a cliff. Oh, but I'm sure you could've saved her when the harness failed when she was halfway across with little to no chance of reaching her or being able to pull her up. But hey, Gabe at least bothering to try was certainly something to blame him for. Yeah, great reasoning pal.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While Gabe is retrieving the first briefcase, Qualen remarks that they don't need two guides and instructs his crew to kill Gabe when he comes down. He says this while standing next to Hal, so Hal naturally yells to Gabe not to come back down, allowing Gabe to flee and become the fly-in-the-ointment to Qualen and crew. Had Qualen kept his mouth shut until Gabe came down, or instructed his men out of earshot, he would've saved himself a lot of trouble.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Delmar fights Tucker and announces it like a soccer game; finally, the beaten Tucker is dangling from a cliff with Delmar's shotgun in his face. Tucker manages to stab the sadistic Irishman in the ankle with Frank's dagger, grab his shotgun while he's distracted by the pain and...
Take My Hand: Gabe tries to save Tucker's girlfriend this way. It doesn't work.
Those Two Guys: Brett and Evan, the two friendly extreme sports enthusiasts.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Or rather, on an urban legend among American climbers. The legend version was that a dope smuggling plane had gone down in the mountains and been found by climbers, who - being the only people able to get to it - recovered the stash. David Breashears, who was employed on the Movie as a climber, relates the story in his book High Exposure.
Villainous Breakdown: Travers when he finds Gabe has outsmarted him and he'll never be able to locate the money, rendering all his crooked dealings to get it worthless.