Cutter’s Way (1981) – The Complete Hero

When the golden age of 1970s Hollywood came to an end and the studios reasserted their control there were many unworthy casualties. The great tide of the American New Wave had surged up the beach and rolled back to a sea of spiralling budgets, slumping revenues and bottomless self-indulgence. One of these casualties was Ivan Passer’s adaptation of Newton Thornburg’s novel Cutter and Bone (1976).

Buried in a corporate shake-up and largely forgotten until its DVD re-release, Cutter’s Way is very much a product of the American New Wave. Ostensibly about a pair of misfits investigating a conspiracy to protect a wealthy industrialist, the film taps into the same cultural anxieties as Alan J. Pakula’s political paranoia trilogy comprising Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976). However, rather than pandering to the audience’s belief that someone is out to get them, Passer’s film presents its conspiracy in a deeply ambiguous manner. Indeed, Cutter’s Way is a film that asks whether the tendency to see conspiracies everywhere might not in fact be a reflection of a deeper psychological need to be appreciated and desired. After all… if people are out to get you then that must mean that they consider you worth getting. Far more than a simple conspiracy thriller, Cutter’s Way is an exploration of the comfort that can be had in being a victim.

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