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Cut and Run
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Whole Lotta 'Cut'tin' Goin' On!"
3 stars

It's really a lot better than one expects going in. Another feather in the cap for New World Pictures, a studio that produced a lot of underseen goodies from the 1980s.

I can't pretend to be a particular admirer of the jungle-cannibal subgenre, with such underwhelming cinematic endeavors as Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox not exactly placing high in my must-see recommendation list, but the unexpectedly dandy Cut and Run succeeds in being a model of its kind -- a pure entertainment for those craving well-staged action, not to mention heaping helpings of zenith-level gore and nudity. It's nothing exemplary in the contextual department, mind you, and the character base is decidedly lacking, but it moves with real assuredness and doesn't have a boring moment anywhere in it. It's set in the Amazon jungle, with the very first sequence a graphically violent one where a cocaine-processing operation on a river bank is overtaken by a horde of loin-clothed Incas who viciously slaughter the men and savagely rape and kill the women; they're led by a truly-bonkers white man, Colonel Brian Horne (Richard Lynch), one of the sole survivors of the Jonestown Guyana-cult tragedy. Blowing poisonous darts through bamboo pipes, these savages take several tons of the dope and escape with it; some of it's being smuggled into Miami by a mysterious woman, who by chance is spied at the Dade County airport by ambitious investigative TV reporter Fran Hudson (Lisa Blount), who, with her trusty cameraman Mark Ludman (Leonard Mann), tails her to a seedy apartment building.

Fran calls it in to the local DEA contact and agrees not to move in until forces can arrive, but she can't wait and proceeds into the building where she finds the woman and two men in an apartment bloodily done in a la Scarface. Searching the place, she comes up with a photograph of the woman posing with a man she eventually recognizes as Horne, along with a young man by the name of Tommy Alto (Willie Aames), the son of her wealthy studio boss, who's disappeared and hasn't been seen for a year -- though how he got hooked up with these criminals in the first place is never made clear: when we're introduced to his character, he's trying to escape his jungle habitat, only for his brave savior leading him to safety to be gunned down, and he's brought back to a camp and kept under close watch. As for Fran, after getting information on the location of the camp, she's flown there along with Ludman, only the plane crashes and they're left to fend for themselves in the nightmarish jungle terrain, and in the process encounters jungle natives and crocodiles and booby traps and every malicious malady known to man. A luxurious vacation at the Hawaiian beach, this ain't.

So why should moviegoers not into ultra-exploitive trash venture so much as a second's attention span onto this? Well, quite simply, they shouldn't. The story doesn't progress in any intelligent way, the dialogue is certainly nothing to write home about, and, gosh knows, the mere sight of the inept Aames from the old TV show Eight is Enough trying to act "dramatic" is as embarrassing as watching a one-armed man trying to juggle three glowing red balls in front of a world audience. But for those looking for chills and thrills, the movie delivers. It's quite the surprise coming from director Ruggero Deodato, who actually helmed the atrociously-shaped Holocaust yet miraculously manages to install a great deal of pacing and tautness into the proceedings here. The Incas are depicted as evil incarnate, which may be perceived as zenophobic yet is sound enough in that they make fabulously effective villains who exude plenty of palpable menace -- they're very adept at hiding and setting grisly traps that make their victims wish they'd never been born (one gets split like a wishbone from the groin up that will be hard for even the most veteran gorehound not to instinctively look away at); and even when they're not seen, their unnerving omnipresence can always be felt.

There's also a good deal of well-choreographed action involving seaplanes and gunfights, and the razor-sharp editing is always propelling the action along at a fever clip -- the running time seems to be going by in nanoseconds. The screenplay errs a little by cutting away to some needless dialogue scenes back in Miami where Tommy's father is paying off underworld types to precisely pinpoint his boy, which temporarily distance us from the fabulous you-are-there vitality of the jungle-set goings-on; and one scene where an informant is murdered on a tram track is entirely incidental (though the character does figure into two scenes inside a full-frontal-nude strip bar that do nothing but accentuate the movie's undeniable sexism). Otherwise, Deodato keeps things focused and swift, so even when the screenwriters throw in a haphazard Apocalypse Now-inspired bit late in the game where Col. Horne, with his obedient jungle servants at his side, dashes off some half-assed Jungian speech about disillusionment at the innate depravity of the human race, and then willfully has himself brutally done in with a machete, we take it in without cringing. Cut and Run doesn't have the pure pleasure of the sexy/violent Brazilian women's-prison flick Bare Behind Bars, but it is better made and offers some actual moviemaking craft. Plus, it offers up the cult-favorite actor Michael Berryman of The Hills Have Eyes fame as the lead savage. One wouldn't think he'd ever wind up with white fire-extinguisher fluid and bright-red blood on his person in a grand finale aboard a plane that makes him look like a disgusting cherry-topped ice-cream sundae, but, hey, Cut and Run is just that kind of giddy, take-it-or-leave-it guilty pleasure.

The DVD from the reliable folks at Anchor Bay boasts a very fine transfer.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23304&reviewer=327
originally posted: 01/07/12 10:21:01
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USA
  02-May-1986 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2002

UK
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