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‘The Cutting Edge’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 27, 1992

No, "The Cutting Edge" is not another murder mystery involving Michael Douglas, dangerous blondes and kitchen knives. It's a love story on ice, an odd-coupling between ex-hockey player D. B. Sweeney and figure skater Moira Kelly. But love -- at least, the real, warm-blooded kind -- doesn't come into it. This movie's "Flashdance" on blades, an unending series of rock videos posing as a story. It's so slick, so loveless, so efficient, you almost take your hat off to the filmmakers.

Sweeney's a former U.S. Olympic pucker who lost peripheral vision in a blindside smash. He needs a gig. Skater Kelly's an ice queen on blades with a trail of bloodied partners behind her. She needs a new one for the Winter Olympics. He's a pug. She's a princess. He doesn't think much of wimpy skaters. She disdains puck-chasing lowlifes.

"So what do you do for fun," asks Sweeney, "polish your knife collection?"

"Could you teach it how to breathe with its mouth closed?" she says to coach Roy Dotrice, referring to Sweeney. Things get physical when they start working on the ice. "Don't quit your day job," she sneers when Sweeney falls on his behind. When he's supposed to catch her in mid-air, he deliberately drops her, butt-first. And so on . . .

The screen marketing of character opposites graduates into the Great Zone of Montages. You've seen these training sequences before in the "Rocky" and "Karate Kid" movies. Music plays. The months go by. Our heroes pump, punch, lunge or twist in the air, as a kindly coach-cum-sensei looks on. In the movies, improvement is only a quick-cut sequence -- and the right song -- away.

Of course, it isn't Sweeney and Kelly performing those twists and turns. You see them angle for a fancy move, then, at a strategic moment, the movie cuts to real figure skaters performing the maneuver. Then, it cuts back to the actors landing.

On this nuts-and-bolts level, "Cutting Edge" does a commendable job. The visual sleight of hand is skillfully executed. So is everything else. The movie whizzes along, without giving you time to consider anything. It's all slick-smooth transition, an interplaying of two impending realities -- the competition and the growing love between Sweeney and Kelly. There are intervening diversions and hurdles. There's Kelly's equally snotty, preppy boyfriend, Dwier Brown, who doesn't think much of her ice partner. Also, Sweeney has to tell his machismo, hometown buddies that he's doing a little, uh, figure skating these days.

The 1992 Olympics finally come around, with the blue lights, the scorecards and the American flag wavers in the audience -- hey, weren't they in "Rocky IV"? This rah-rah movie was obviously timed to coincide with the real Winter Olympics. Let's see, that would have been last month. Oops! Well, let's just say they've managed to release it on the heels of the Olympics. The movie may not have a human pulse but it's timely -- sort of.

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