Sony // 2005 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 31st, 2006
The past holds the key.
Chuck Norris is back to put your DVD player in the hammerlock! The former Texas Ranger suits up as John Shepherd, all around kick-ass P.I., looking to apply the hurt to some Nazi war criminals. Hoo-ah!
The rare jewels world is about to be rocked. Two gigantic diamonds called The Stones of Light and Perfection have recently been unearthed in an archaeological dig, but have unfortunately fallen into the hands of a total bastard named Dirk (Daniel Bernhardt, Bloodsport 2). Dirk is a freelance assassin hired by Nazi war criminal Colonel Speerman, who has a link to a master stone cutter. That cutter is a former inmate of Auschwitz named Isaac Teller, and Speerman orders Dirk to kidnap the old man and get him working on the two diamonds immediately.
Distraught over her uncle's disappearance, Teller's feisty niece Elizabeth (Joanna Pacula) brings in Shepherd, a detective known for his effectiveness. But the moment Shepherd gets involved, violence goes down, van chases ensue, and shots are fired.
It will take the combined brain power of Elizabeth and Shepherd to crack the mystery of Isaac's kidnapping, and trace the malfeasance back to a trove of past brutalities. Along the way, Shepherd is going to have to issue quite a few beat-downs, a responsibility he is all too happy to comply with.
I always feel kind of guilty when I don't like an R-rated action film, even if it is a lower-budget direct-to-DVD production. It's such a starved genre and it seems the home video format is becoming its last bastion. But I must set aside my personal desires and say this: The Cutter is a mediocre film overall, and, specifically, a tame and lame action flick. There are a few fist-fights, a car chase, a big explosion at the end, and some intermittent gunfire, but all those necessary ingredients do not a flavorful mayhem soufflé make.
Let's talk plot first. The story is serviceable, but it is certainly nothing of note. The heavy focus on the diamond cutting business is supposed to be interesting I guess, but never comes off as more than a gimmick. Same with the Auschwitz storyline. Hey, I'm all for violence waged against Nazi war criminals and all, but some scenes -- particularly the flashback moments where we saw a younger Isaac being abused by a younger Steerman -- were too contrived to be dramatically effective. But The Cutter is an action flick, and as we all know, action flicks are not known, or expected, to have stunning, serpentine plots. Stories are often frameworks to get us from one set-piece to the next.
Sadly, that's where The Cutter stumbles the most; the action is just plain boring. Look, I give props to Chuck Norris, and recognize his stance in the pantheon of butt-kicker greats, and acknowledge he's like 85 years old and in better shape than I will ever be in, but he just wasn't doing it for me. He didn't look terribly enthused to be there, and his combat scenes were methodical and stilted. And this isn't a Chuck Norris pile-on. None of the action was interesting. The big van chase is clinical and unrealistic at the same time (you're telling me that van's not going to roll going 70 mph around a turn?!) and the shoot-outs were marred by horrible sound effects work. POW! POW! POW! POW! (Wait, isn't this an automatic weapon?!?)
Add to that, the film is besieged by boilerplate "straight-to-video-snafus," including a bad guy falling forward after getting shot in the back with a high-caliber pistol, astoundingly brittle bus windows, and the ever-popular, oft-used "villain hubris" -- this last one is quite egregious, with Dirk passing up multiple chances to smite Shepherd, even though he's already wasted a long line of much more innocuous folks, and, my favorite, turning his back to his mortal enemy to show off his bullet proof vest, giving John the opening he needs to tackle him from behind.
Finally, though the film has an R-rating, it's very soft, and with a few modified scenes of violence could easily have snagged a PG-13. Sorry Chuck, but your latest outing strikes me as simply a brawnier version of Walker, Texas Ranger.
It is a nice looking film though, solidly transferred in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and pushing a loud 5.1 audio mix. A clean, solid technical accomplishment all around. Special features are...wait for it...missing in action!
Uninspiring mayhem and some dopey gaffes incapacitate Chuck's latest.
The Cutter is cut from the roster.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R