After emigrating to the United States in 1969, Czech-born director Ivan Passer finally broke through to American audiences with his fourth film, a unique blend of mystery and social commentary. Cutter's Way is set in Santa Barbara, CA, a community of wealth and power. Its main characters, however, are among the town's have-nots: Richard Bone Jeff Bridges, a beach-boy gigolo starting to go to seed; Bone's best friend Alex Cutter (John Heard), a Vietnam veteran maimed in body and spirit; and Mo (Lisa Eichorn), Cutter's alcoholic wife. When Cutter spots one of the community's most prominent citizens in the act of covering up a murder, Bone insists that the police would never take their word over that of a man of wealth and prestige. Cutter seizes the opportunity to blackmail the killer, as a means of striking back at a system he thinks sent him off to an unjust war and ruined his life. The film was fortunate to fall into the hands of United Artists Classics, a new division of the company crippled by the financial disaster of Heaven's Gate. UA Classics adroitly marketed Cutter's Way, riding a wave of rave reviews and good word-of-mouth among more discriminating filmgoers to modest box-office success.
by Tom Wiener synopsis