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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Cutting Edge’ Earns Itself a Medal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Calgary, 1988. A young figure skater, her partner twirling her high above his head, abruptly crashes to the ice, just 45 seconds from winning the Olympic gold. Meanwhile, a star hockey player, moving in for the kill, is blindsided by an opponent, leaving him with a career-destroying 18-degree loss in peripheral vision in his right eye.

This speed-of-lightning prologue launches “The Cutting Edge” (citywide), a rousing though late-arriving crowd-pleaser of sufficient wit, vitality and intelligence that you don’t have to be a teen-ager to be thoroughly entertained by it. Director Paul M. Glaser, writer Tony Gilroy, cinematographer Elliot Davis, choreographer Robin Cousins and the entire cast and crew deserve full marks for their determination in making something special out of material that so easily could have been bland, predictable or sentimental. The off-the-rink sequences bristle with as much passion and energy as the dazzling skating sequences, featuring some of the world’s greatest figure skaters.

Two years have passed, and now Kate (Moira Kelly), the figure skater, is hard at work preparing for Albertville on the huge private rink of her father’s Greenwich, Conn., estate. Alas, the rich, arrogant, sarcastic Kate, quite literally an ice princess, has run through as many partners as Doug (D. B. Sweeney) has applications for hockey teams. A blue-collar Minnesotan, Doug is working in construction when, in desperation, Kate’s Russian coach (Roy Dotrice, adopting a thick accent), thinks of him.

Clearly, Glaser and Gilroy realize that the audience assumes from the start that Kate and Doug will end up in a clinch after the obligatory personality clash. Consequently, they strive effectively to keep us guessing about the couple right up to the final frame, and they take the opportunity to make the getting there as substantial, alternately amusing and lacerating, as they know how. They dare to present Kate not as the usual pain-in-the-neck who is of course adorable underneath, and Kelly does a no-holds-barred job in making her a bitch through and through; a thoroughly unsympathetic individual, Doug realizes he must endure because it’s his one chance to get back on ice.

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Just because the fireworks subside to allow for a smidgen of mutual respect to develop--sufficiently for Doug to give Kate a treasured Bobby Hull sweat shirt for Christmas and she to give him “Great Expectations” in return--doesn’t mean that romance, or even affection, is certain to be in the offing. Besides, Kate is already engaged to a handsome, polished Harvard MBA (Dwier Brown), who runs the London office of her tycoon father (Terry O’Quinn).

Kelly and Sweeney are evenly matched. Sweeney’s Doug is a thoroughly likable all-American guy, an enemy of pretense and possessed of a sensitivity and perceptiveness that his often cocky demeanor belies. If Sweeney is the film’s solid anchor, Kelly in turn has the challenging assignment of gradually suggesting that there may be more to Kate than hauteur and snobbery. Maybe she’s not so self-possessed after all, maybe this most willful and determined young woman is not even her own person. Last seen in “Billy Bathgate,” Kelly has a forceful presence heightened by her strong features--by the fact that she is attractive while being far from the conventional screen beauty. As diverting as “The Cutting Edge” (rated PG for some adult situations, language) is, one nagging question persists: Why isn’t such an unapologetic egotist as Kate a soloist in the first place?

‘The Cutting Edge’

D. B. Sweeney: Doug

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Moira Kelly: Kate

Roy Dotrice: Anton

Terry O’Quinn: Jack

An MGM presentation of an Interscope Communications production. Director Paul M. Glaser. Producers Ted Field, Karen Murphy and Robert W. Cort. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy. Cinematographer Elliot Davis. Editor Michael E. Polalow. Costumes William Ivey Long. Music Patrick Williams. Production design David Gropman. Art director Dan Davis. Set decorator Steve Sewchuck. Sound David Lee. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG.


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