Perhaps the most shamefully neglected masterpiece of 1980s’ American cinema, this complex and compelling modern film noir actually improves on its source material, Newton Thornburg’s fine novel Cutter and Bone.
Brilliantly directed by Czech émigré Ivan Passer, it remains tantalisingly ambiguous on the question of guilt or innocence as a bitter, horribly mutilated Vietnam vet (John Heard) and his two cohorts (Jeff Bridges and Lisa Eichhorn) hunt down a rich Santa Barbara oil tycoon in the belief that he murdered a young woman and dumped her body in a trash can. A strong sense of ambiguity also applies to the relationships between the three main characters who are amongst the finest portraits of disillusioned American outcasts ever captured on screen. Heard is extraordinary as the paranoid Cutter, but he’s matched by Bridges’ turn as the ageing beach bum who fears commitment.
This film is screening as part of our special tribute season, dedicated to Pete Walsh (March 9th – 31st).