Cutter’s Way [from the novel Cutter & Bone by Newton Thornburg] suffers from a terminal case of creative indecision. With any number of intially intriguing plot lines, director Ivan Passer and scripter Jeffrey Alan Fiskin never come close to shedding light on what, if anything, this picture is really about. Jeff Bridges, John Heard and Lisa Eichhorn all deliver exceptionally fine topline performances, but their efforts seem wasted in such a weak vehicle.
Bridges limns a pretty beach boy type taken to supporting himself from the kindness of rich matrons. His best friend is Heard, a wildly bitter yet fiercely adventurous alcoholic who lost his leg in Vietnam. Heard is married to Eichhorn, who’s also taken to the bottle but, unlike the other two, is aware that her personal world is crumbling.
Unfortunately, the trio is framed in an obtuse murder mystery concerning Bridges’ witnessing an older man with sunglasses dumping the dead body of a teenage girl. Bridges thinks he spots the suspect, a powerful oil corporation head, in a civic parade he attends with Heard. Film then alternately gets mired in attempts to blackmail the oilman, Heard’s increasing craziness, Bridges’ inability to make a commitment, Eichhorn’s love of both men, and a revelation of the unfortunate past of friend Arthur Rosenberg that is supposed to be related to the murder.