With assorted Rockys, Rambos and lame comedies behind him, Sylvester Stallone has headed for the hills and box office success with Cliffhanger. Alan Morrison discovers a sense of humour under the muscle.
He sloggcd his way to the top as a New York boxer who became an unlikely world champion; he scraped the very depths of the barrel playing straight man to a septuagenarian lady with an oversized gun. Sylvester Stallone — certainly after Stap.’ ()r My Main Will Slum! and some other dubious comedy moves. was an actor not so much at a crossroads as dumped on the highway without a map. Fortunately. Cliffhanger puts him back on top of the world — at least in a literal sense — as a former Mountain Rescue pro tussling with the bad guys way up in the mountains of Colorado.
‘Rambo was bullet, hit, gone. Now it’s bullet, hit, explosion and people turn into human wallpaper.’
‘I consider myself to have quite an outrageous sense of humour. but what I didn't count on was that I am perceived in a certain guise.‘ he says in defence of his recent career choices. ‘After a couple of comedies which didn't exactly ring my bell. I wanted to do something that hadn‘t been seen before. God knows. I‘ve done enough cops and I didn‘t want to do any more high street chases. When I read this script. I said. “This is the first vertical action film I‘ve ever seen in my life". Usually. when you have a filtn with a view of the Alps. it‘s three people trudging across the snow looking for something to eat.‘
Cliffhanger is a classic action adventure. with stunning rockface thrills professionally delivered by Renny (Die Hard 2) Harlin. A year after he failed to save the life of an inexperienced climber — the girlfriend of his best friend — Gabe Walker (Stallone) drifts back to Colorado. only to become involved in the rescue of a gang of villains who are stranded in the mountains after a slightly botched hijack. Tremendous goodie vs baddie battles are set against breathtaking widescreen backdrops and spiced with individual action sequences that will guarentce white-knuckle vertigo experiences from the comfort of your cinema seat. And what's most impressive is how real it all looks.
‘l did 85 to 90 per cent ofthe stunts because I didn't want to fool the audience.‘ Stallone reveals. ‘Sorne of the stunts got so wild that they had to be cut front the filrn as they were too unbelievable. There was one
where l fell down a chute. l5()ft straight down. In real life. you trip. fall over. hurt your knee and you're on crutches fora month. I’m bouncing off cliffs at 3.()()()ft. then rub myself down and say. “Damn. has anyone got a Band-Aid?"
Mind you. it's not all macho stuff. Although he did work out for months to get in shape for the role. Stallone was always aware of how body-building had once had almost life-threatening consequences for him. ‘I had a real bad injury in Rambo 2.‘ he recalls. ‘which required I60 stitches under my arm because my pec muscles had been torn off and had to be re- attached to my shoulder. Then i decided to build my chest up and. as it got bigger. it began to cotnpress a vein which was over 50 per cent closed. then 93 per cent closed. and my arm turned a beautiful shade of Wedgcwood blue. It was getting worse. and so I had to stop exercising and let the body shrink. It could han led to blood clots. and l was put on blood thinners and other medications. Surgeons wanted to operate and take my first rib out. but I said. “I don‘t think so — not even if I‘m Adam. I'm not giving my rib up for nobody".‘
Maybe this is one reason why Rambo at last seems to have been laid to rest in his Neanderthal grave. despite a treatment doing the rounds that reunited him with his fatnin as a sort of prodigal black sheep in a red headband. But despite a new man in the White House who doesn‘t think this Vietnam vet is
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12 The List 18 June—l July 1993
Cliffhanger: “white-knuckle vertigo’
the perfect role model for kicking Middle Eastem ass. the male action hero is still I/I(’ audience No 1. Witness the $20 million (‘liffltanger took in its first weekend in the States. and the admittedly entertaining. but undoubtedly excessive. violence that Stallone continues to revel in on screen.
‘I had a real bad injury in Rambo 2, which required 160 stitches under my arm because my pec muscles had been torn off and had to be re-attached to my shoulder.’
‘The films I did in the 80s. by comparison to the ones that I've seen three or four years later in the 90s. are walks in the park.‘ he says. trying to have his tough—guy cake and eat it. ‘I don't want to go casting aspersions. but they have done a lot worse than what Ramlm did. Rantlm was bullet. hit. gone. Now it‘s bullet. hit. explosion and people turn into human wallpaper. And as for this myth that everything in the ‘)()s is going back to family orientated filtns — let's
just see Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer get out a
machine gun. and the Seven Dwarfs rob a bank. You‘ve got to have your action filtns — it‘s part of the cinema lure.‘
Cliffhanger opens in Smilaan on Friday 25 Jane.