Cutter's Way offers an unblinking look at darker side of California dreaming. The prism through which we get that view is Santa Barbara, arguably the state's most beautiful town, nestled between the mountains and the ocean and home to a wealthy citizenry who maintain strict vigilance over zoning, architecture, and maintenance of their fair city (if Santa Barbara could be, it would be the world's first gated city). Director Ivan Passer approaches this paradise from its underbelly, focusing on a trio of disaffected types: the beachside gigolo trading on his looks for cash from bored women, the embittered and crippled war veteran picking over his physical and psychic wounds, and the alcoholic wife supporting her man but slowly losing her dignity. Their plan to bring down one of the community's burghers with an audacious blackmail scheme is conceived in bitterness and boredom. Anchored by three strong lead performances, Cutter's Way is acutely sensitive to the bitterness that gnaws at people drawn to the physical charms of California, only to be disappointed by their inability to share in the false promise of happiness those charms hold out.
by Tom Wiener review