Cutter’s Way is a 1981 neo noir thriller directed by Ivan Passer. The film stars Jeff Bridges, John Heard, and Lisa Eichhorn. The screenplay was by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin, based on the 1976 novel Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg.
Best friends Richard Bone and Alex Cutter (John Heard) are two middle-class guys living in an upper-class town. The Santa Barbara buddies get dragged into a conspiratorial murder mystery.
Alex Cutter (Heard) came back from war minus an eye, a leg, and an arm and mad as hell. He lacks direction, drinks too much, and abuses his wife (Eichhorn). One night his friend Richard Bone (Bridges) witnesses someone dumping something in an alley; it turns out to be the body of a young girl.
In 1982, Fiskin won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. In 1983, the film won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.
Jonathan Rosenbaum of The Chicago Reader would later write that it was “probably Ivan Passer’s best American feature…A major statement about post-60s disillusionment, with a wonderful performance by Lisa Eichhorn and shimmering, hallucinatory cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth.” John Patterson of The Guardian called it “note-perfect” and a “masterpiece,” praising all three of the lead performances while acknowledging the film required multiple viewings to perceive its strengths.
Cutter’s Way holds a rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews. The site’s consensus reads, “A suitably cynical neo-noir that echoes the disillusionment of its era, Cutter’s Way relies on character-driven drama further elevated by the work of an outstanding cast”.