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YMMV / Cliffhanger

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  • Awesome Music: Trevor Jones' stirring score, especially the seven-minute-plus end title version of the main theme.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
  • Broken Base: The film has been criticised for its unrealistic portrayal of rock climbing. One example is the feature of the bolt-gun which fires bolts directly into rock, forgoing the usual rock-drilling and bolt-hammering used in rock-climbing. This ignores certain material properties of rock that should cause the bolt-gun's impact site to shatter and explode with flaky projectiles. The bolt gun is considered the most serious of the film's technical inaccuracies. Further examples are showing athletic moves, which have no use in real climbing, or free soloing with – then also completely useless – gear.
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  • Catharsis Factor: Considering what a bunch of murdering assholes they all are, it's very satisfying to see Qualen's gang get what's coming to them.
  • Complete Monster: Eric Qualen is an ex-federal agent turned international terrorist who attempts to steal $100 million, leading to the deaths of three agents and one pilot, and has no problem killing anyone who stands in his way, even his own men. After he loses the three cases full of money and his plane crashes, he takes the mountain guides Gabriel "Gabe" Walker and his friend Hal Tucker as hostages so they can help him find the cases. When he and his henchmen locate the first case, Qualen takes Walker's coat off to make sure he won't escape, thus making him almost freeze to death. He eventually decides to kill him anyway once he comes back. When two teenagers spot him, Qualen has his men murder them, simply commenting in a sadistic tone "Sue me" when Tucker calls him out. Qualen later kills his lover, informing her that true love is sacrifice. He plans on killing Tucker when he is no longer needed and later kidnaps Walker's girlfriend Jesse, threatening to drop her in the ravines if Walker won't give him the case. During the final fight on the helicopter, hanging on a deep chasm, Qualen has a Villainous Breakdown and attempts to make the helicopter fall, taking Walker with him.
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  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The NC-17 cut gave off this effect due to the grisly violence seen on screen, hence the Re-Cut to avert this problem.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
  • Evil Is Cool: The villains are all a Hate Sink gang for their cruelty and general mean-spiritedness, but there are some exceptions despite also being despicable:
  • Fridge Logic: While providing the movie with enough mooks for Walker to take down one by one, you have to wonder why Qualen needed at least five heavily armed mercenaries whose sole role during the airplane heist would have been nothing but to sit around if it had gone according to plan.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Craig Fairbrass plays Delmar who guns down a friend of a protagonist, much to the latter's devastation and even crying out a Big "NO!". Then in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, rather then playing the provoker again, Fairbrass is on the receiving end of it this time, as Fairbrass portrays Ghost who is Bash Brothers with Roach, who is then gunned down in front of Ghost, who then gives out a Big "NO!" in response before being killed him not long after, ironically the same way Delmar is killed after causing a tragedy, a high caliber gunshot wound to the chest on a mountain.
  • He Really Can Act: Anyone these days who are familiar with his more recent heroic and likable performances in video games such as Modern Warfare and Battlefield V would be quite surprised that Craig Fairbrass shows off a range in which he can play an utterly monstrous and despicable character in this film before his video game voice acting made him more famous.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Craig Fairbrass' character killing a character named Frank is ironic, considering Fairbrass previously played a character with the same first name on first season of the TV show Prime Suspect.
    • It can also be considered ironic to see Tucker vs. Delmar in a showdown scene, since the actors who played the aforementioned characters, Michael Rooker and Craig Fairbrass, would both later play The Lancer in the Call of Duty franchise. So otherwise, this scene can be viewed as Mike Harper vs. Gaz/Ghost/Wallcroft or game production studio-wise, a Treyarch mo-cap actor vs. an Infinity Ward voice actor.
      • Fairbrass plays a character, which was part of his early typecasting at the time with For Queen and Country and the television show Prime Suspect being other examples, who is a Politically Incorrect Villain who hates Scary Black Man Kynette's guts and lashes out racial slurs against him like "boy" and "black bastard." Then in 2016, Fairbrass would later make a cameo appearance in the Call of Duty franchise's latest installment Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at the first level as a black NPC ally character named Tee, ironic much.
    • Speaking of Frank, Rex Linn and Craig Fairbrass, who both played two of the villains, both played police detectives with the first name Frank on crime drama television shows (Fairbrass played DI Frank Burkin on Prime Suspect, while Linn would later be renowned for his role as Det. Frank Tripp on CSI: Miami).
    • Originally, this project was meant to be a John Hughes-directed comedy starring Stallone and John Candy. Interestingly, Leon, who plays The Dragon Kynette who gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by Stallone, would later around the same year the film was released star opposite Candy in the Disney film Cool Runnings.
    • Qualen comments to Kristel, who was planting a C4 booby trap, that she would make a good wife one day, which is funny as Kristel's actress Caroline Goodall had in fact played a good wife to The Hero in Steven Spielberg's flicks Hook and Schindler's List (which the latter was released the same year as this film).
    • Leon co-stars with Craig Fairbrass, who would be known in the COD franchise as Ghost in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, in this movie, however, before he had acted in Band of the Hand opposite Stephen Lang (who would later appear in Call of Duty: Ghosts leading a team called "The Ghosts" who are inspired by Fairbrass's character's namesake).
    • Walker and Tucker would go on to be old friends IN SPACE!
      • Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls did a parody of the opening scene but with a raccoon in the place of Tucker's girlfriend. Guardians 2 features a raccoon as one of its main characters.
    • John Lithgow in this movie approached his villainous character as a Fake Brit and as a result earned a Razzie nomination for his fake accent, then cut to The Crown (2016), where Lithgow once again plays a Fake Brit as Winston Churchill and earned acclaim and numerous accolades including a Golden Globe nomination and an Emmy.
    • When bickering with Delmar, Kynette threatens him with his hunting knife and does a pose that is similar to a battle pose of another Scary Black Man Erik Stevens (played by Michael B. Jordan, who had co-starred with the movie's star Stallone in Creed) when he is surrounded by his opponents in Black Panther.
    • Craig Fairbrass plays The Mean Brit member of a gang of aerial bank robbers in this film, then comes Battlefield V, where Fairbrass would play a Special Boat Service officer in World War II who recruits The Mean Brit bank robber who happens to be the Player Character to fight in the front lines, only this time to hop off a boat to fight on the ground (and during a rainstorm nonetheless, which is not unlike how the villains invade the hero's home town in the script for the Die Hard-in-a-hurricane project Gale Storm before it turned into this film) rather then off a plane as Fairbrass did in this film. Also, noteworthily in the game, when Fairbrass's character does a brief impersonation of the bank robber father, the line he says "I'm Arthur fucking Bridger, gimme the fucking money!" felt like a paraphrasing of Fairbrass's Cluster F-Bomb line in this film, "FUCK THE MONEY AND FUCK YOU! I WASN'T BORN TO DIE ON A FUCKING MOUNTAIN!"
    • John Lithgow and Michael Rooker who both appear in this film also appeared in Stephen King film adaptations with music scores by Christopher Young (Lithgow appeared in Pet Sematary (2019), while Rooker appeared in The Dark Half, which the latter the was theatrically released the same year as this film).
    • Janine Turner and Michael Rooker both had worked with horror maestro George A. Romero for Orion Pictures (Turner played a Your Cheating Heart Asshole Victim in Monkey Shines five years prior, while Rooker appeared in The Dark Half released the same year as this movie).
  • Iron Woobie: Walker, he is overcome with grief from his failure to save his best friend's girlfriend, captured by Qualen's goons who stripped him of his jacket and bolt gun that left him vulnerable to the cold and finds himself a living target for the villains to hunt down.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Tucker, as he blames Walker for his failure to save Sarah, which is understandable as Sarah was Tucker's girlfriend and Tucker loves her so, as most of his anger towards Walker is out of grief and the fact he had to bear witness first hand Sarah's death and Walker's inability to save her. He becomes more of a Butt-Monkey later in the film when is forced to be a guide for Qualen's posse, bullied around, Forced to Watch them kill two of his colleagues that he later protested against before being on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown given by Delmar.
    • Travers, who is bossed around by his fellow goons throughout the film and is a Big Bad Wannabe who attempts to be The Starscream when he couldn't take any more of this lack of respect anymore before Qualen gets the upper hand. What Travers goes through during the film would contribute to his eventual Sanity Slippage (which is lampshaded by Qualen to Travers when speaking to him for the last time) and Villainous Breakdown when Walker outsmarts him.
  • Love to Hate: While most of the Moral Event Horizon actions and Jerkass behaviors of the terrorists fall into a Hate Sink (especially when it comes to killing off a Plucky Comic Relief and a beloved Cool Old Guy or just being outright mean-spirited towards their enemies and each other), you got to admit, the acting of Leon and Craig Fairbrass comes off as somewhat badass when it comes to playing the Co-Dragons, from Kynette's martial arts-laden No-Holds-Barred Beatdown given to juggernaut Stallone, to Fairbrass' soccer game wisecracks when torturing Tucker to give him a unique, slow and agonizing death. Even though they meant to be a Hate Sink as the rest of their posse, they also border on Evil Is Cool, especially the presence of Craig Fairbrass.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Renny Harlin makes you hate Qualen and his fellows so much that you'll cheer when they all meet their ends.
  • Narm:
    • In about half the death scenes, you wonder if Renny Harlin thought he was making an Oscar Bait Tear Jerker rather than an action movie.
    • Speaking of which, Frank's facial expression during the failed rescue scene at the beginning was off, like he was smiling...
    • According to Stallone: "...the director's cut was met with a lot of disapproval at the screening and received some alarmingly low scores. Mainly because the stunts were absurdly overblown. For example, the average man can jump maybe twelve feet across a gorge, and the stunts had me leaping maybe three hundred feet or more, so situations like that had to be pared down and still then were fairly extreme..."
  • Narm Charm: Walker defeating Kynette with a well timed Groin Attack.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Due to some plot similarities, this film is the closest thing to a Setting Update remake to either World War II Propaganda Machine flicks Northern Pursuit starring Errol Flynn or 49th Parallel (the former features an A-list star Flynn as The Hero much like how Stallone is in this one, while the Villain Protagonist of the latter bares similar facial features to John Lithgow who plays this movie's Big Bad and his actor to be British and his first name to be Eric much like how Lithgow's character is an Evil Brit and also named Eric).
  • Tear Jerker: Sarah's horrifying demise, Walker's grief, and Frank's murder.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Some viewers may feel this way in regards to Frank, the movie's resident Cool Old Guy, especially when suffering a Dropped a Bridge on Him death after spending the entire screen time trailing Walker, Tucker and Jessie just to find and rescue them.
  • Too Cool to Live: Matheson, Kynette, Frank and Delmar.
  • What an Idiot!: Seriously, Kynette and Delmar both pretty much had their victories over the heroes in the bag after curb stomping both Gabe and Hal with relative ease, and they probably would have won if they both hadn't been so cocky just to act like menacing Slasher Movie villains and to outright show off being badasses and that Evil Is Cool. Or if, you know, they had just killed Gabe and Hal right away instead of dragging it out with the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Instead both fall victim to Bond Villain Stupidity - Kynette shoots his mouth off about how he'll torment Gabe's girlfriend before killing her and Delmar just pointlessly drags out Hal's beating by narrating all his moves like a sports announcer. The results? An enraged Gabe grabs Kynette by the balls and impales him on a stalactite, while Hal stabs Delmar in the leg and then shoots the bastard with his own gun.
  • The Woobie: Poor Sarah and Frank.


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