Cutter’s Way (Passer, 1981)

Post Vietnam War apathy, fear, and accountability become the obsessions of the two protagonists in Cutter’s Way, namely womanizer and underachiever Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) and disabled veteran Alex Cutter (John Heard). One night, Bone witnesses a man sliding a body into a dumpster getting a vague look at the culprit as he drives away. After being questioned by the police the next day, Bone tells his friend the story, engaging the off kilter Cutter into a grand investigation toward catching the killer themselves. They believe the murderer to be a CEO of a local oil company, but find out early on that neither the police, nor the community have any investment in questioning such a high powered figure. Cutter’s Way makes sure to diametrically oppose it’s two leads, Cutter over compensating because of his disabilities, attempting one last shot at heroism, while Bone pessimistically feels sorry for himself because he dodged the draft, consequently questioning the validity of the venture the entire time. Bridge’s Bone must have influenced his iconic character in The Big Lebowski, yet Cutter’s Way digs deeper into the guilt-ridden restlessness of the character instead of dwelling on the impotence of clashing with the rich. Ultimately, the film flails in terms of plot (one important character disappears without explanation three quarters of the way through the film) but succeeds greatly in providing an outlet for the common man’s anger with the rich, and their exploitation of time and circumstance. The supposed villain, is only seen atop a horse until the final climax, first marching in a parade and then at a polo game. Cutter and Bone constantly look up at this hidden, menacing figure, and it’s to the film’s credit the ending provides a stunning eye level confrontation. Filmed in the beautiful sunny streets and wharfs of Santa Barbara, CA, Cutter’s Way shows how the small, dark trauma’s of the common man eventually and inevitably seep to the surface, even when the corporate aristocracy refuse to take responsibility for their involvement. The consequences of which, as seen by the duo of Cutter and Bone, can be devastating.

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