by Brandon Colvin
Okay, okay. So, there is this slacker dude who just sits around and gets high all day, who is like the protagonist in this movie, and he’s played by Jeff Bridges, and he like gets tangled up in this noirish web of intrigue involving a wealthy guy. And the slacker dude has this eccentric best friend who is like a bit of a paranoid conspiracy freak who gets really into this whole mess – a Vietnam vet who is totally obsessed with the fact that he was in the war and has a bit of a martyr complex about it. And, like, they get involved in all sorts of shady, criminal mischief as their already strained friendship is tested and pushed to the limit while they attempt to navigate a convoluted psychological maze of mystery and confusion. Oh, and it takes place in L.A.
No, contrary to what the above informal plot summary may suggests, the film in question is not The Big Lebowski (1998). Rather, it is a much darker tale of amateur detectives coming to grips with post-Vietnam nihilism, the reprehensibility of corporatism, and the impossible conundrums of epistemology – Czech director Ivan Passer’s under-seen and masterful Cutter’s Way (1981). Starring Bridges as small-time gigolo and big-time underachiever, Richard Bone, and featuring John Heard giving the performance of a lifetime as the troubled Alex Cutter, Cutter’s Way undoubtedly influenced the now-classic Coen Brothers comedy, yet it delves into similar subject matter with such unsparing cynicism that it feels downright disturbing in comparison. Exploring suicide, alcoholism, mental illness, murder, corruption, emotional disconnection, and the relativity of truth, Passer’s film is rife with jarringly powerful insights and pitch-black gallows humor, making it one of the bravest, most tonally risky films I have ever seen. Certainly worth a watch and emblematic of the bevy of unjustly neglected 1980s cinematic gems that are being reappraised in the age of Netflix, Cutter’s Way is a film whose legacy can only grow in stature.