Paul Michael Glaser’s 1992 The Cutting Edge inspired a string of ensuing sequels and remakes, but having watched this paint-by-numbers look at a former hockey player trying to fit into the stereotypical cold world of competitive ice skating I cannot understand why.
The film is very much an artifact of the time in which it was released. In March of 1992 charming presidential candidate Bill Clinton played his saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show but had also yet to endure real media scrutiny or validated whispers of innuendo. Popular music was transitioning from radio-friendly flirtatious hits of Vanessa Williams “Save The Best For Last” and Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” to more socially-conscious songs yet to come from Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Beloved TV-father Bill Cosby was about to air the final episode of his sitcom, and interest in competitive ice skating was gaining popularity but had yet to reach the media-saturated peak that would arrive with the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan clubbing scandal of 1994.
The Cutting Edge bears out some of these themes in retrospect as it has a story which portends to say something important about the sport in which it is set, but only barely ends up skimming the top layer of thin ice while going through the motions of a rom-com and never making a statement about much of anything other than the generic ability of the “power of love to transform all.”
The plot follows generic hockey superstar Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney), who is toiling as a blue-collar construction worker after a career-ending injury suffered during the 1988 Olympics when he gets a second chance at greatness. The coach for petulant female ice skater Kate Moseley (Moria Kelly) offers him the opportunity to compete in pairs alongside the diminutive diva as she mounts a comeback of her own following an embarrassing finish at the same Winter Games, and Dorsey reluctantly accepts despite her irascible demeanor.
Moseley and Dorsey are initially at odds but gradually warm to one another professionally and personally, despite Kate being engaged to a boring London businessman approved by her wealthy, Olympic-obsessed father (Lost’s Terry O’Quinn, when he still had hair). The competing couple fight developing romantic tension as they advance to Olympic competition in France, with their relationship hearkening back to the tried-and-true opposites attract dynamic, but the chemistry between the actors often seems forced as Kelly often display cathartic emotion to Sweeney’s dead eyes stuck on an oval head replete with perpetual 5 o’clock shadow.
Perhaps the most telling exchange is when the duo quarrel over what music should play during their performance. Kate wants Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” but Doug prefers a generic hair-metal instrumental.
“If you want to win, you play it straight,” she shrewdly interjects, prompting him to whine “But it’s boring.”
Director Glaser (the same Paul Michael Glaser who was one half of the ’70s TV detective duo Starsky and Hutch) includes the mandatory ’90s training montage playing over a kinetic pop dance track, and while he tries to inject a bit of social commentary on economic elitism to the relationship ultimately The Cutting Edge just has no edge to it at all because it barely skims the surface of what could have been a much more engaging story had it not been so predictable.
Though the film is not without its legions of fan, it simply did not win me over as much as I had wanted it to. I had hoped The Cutting Edge would offer something new to say or even a new way to say it, but sadly even the climatic freeze-frame at the end seemed like the whole endeavor was executing routines out of someone else’s playbook.
Better luck next time, Starsky.
The Cutting Edge (1992)
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser
Starring: D.B. Sweeney, Moira Kelly, and Terry O’Quinn
Rated PG for mild language, sexual situations
Celluloid Scoreboard: C for predictable rom-com that offers little excitement even in the skating scenes.