Taylor Brooks (Michael Biehn) and Harold Jameson (Matt Craven) are white-collar professionals by weekday, and accomplished mountain climbers on weekends. Though they share a love for scaling mountains, the two friends are opposites in their personal lives. Taylor is a thrill-seeking attorney and womanizer, while Harold is a married, level-headed scientist.
On a climb, the pair encounter billionaire Phillip Claiborne (Raymond J. Barry), who is accompanied by a team of fellow climbers. Taylor recognizes Dallas (Luca Bercovici) from law school, and the team lets slip that they are testing equipment for a Himalayan expedition. That night, two members of Claiborne's team ignore Harold's warnings of an impending avalanche and perish when snow careens down the mountain. Claiborne and the other survivors are rescued, thanks to quick action by Taylor and Harold. At the interment, Taylor begs Claiborne to take him and Harold on his expedition to K2, the second highest peak in the world. Claiborne ultimately allows the duo to fill the hole in his team.
The entire team heads to the Karakoram, in Pakistan, and starts the climb successfully, though Taylor butts heads with Dallas, while Harold feels guilt over leaving his wife for this adventure. As the ascent continues, the team's Balti porters go on strike (mirroring the real-world experiences of several expeditions in the 1970s), and altitude sickness incapacitates Claiborne. A four-man team (Taylor, Harold, Dallas, and Japanese climber Takane) continue toward the summit with minimal gear. They are stopped when Claiborne authorizes (talking via radio) only two men to go for the summit, while two wait in reserve at the high camp. Dallas chooses Takane as his climbing partner, despite argument from Taylor. Later, Takane returns to the high camp badly injured and in severe hypothermia, and dies soon afterward.
Taylor and Harold ascend, "searching for Dallas". After a grueling journey, the pair celebrate at the "top of the world". Their joy is short-lived, however, as Harold slips on the downclimb, breaks his leg badly, and loses the climbing rope. The pain is unbearable, and he cannot be moved. Over Taylor's objections, Harold sends Taylor to save himself, and Taylor begins a solo descent.
By luck, Taylor discovers Dallas' frozen body and scavenges his climbing rope, epinephrine (adrenaline), and an ice axe. Taylor injects Harold with an epinephrine autoinjector and then begins to lower his friend toward base camp, a few dozen feet at a time. They descend, until Taylor collapses on a ridge. Before dark, a Pakistani helicopter comes into view. The climbers are saved and rejoice.
K2 was filmed on location in Kashmir, Pakistan and British Columbia, Canada.
K2 was originally staged at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City in 1983. It had had 10 previews and 85 performances. Writing in The New York Times, Frank Rich found the scenery “astounding” and “overpowering.” Of the dialogue, however, he wrote, “some of it sounds like padding and much of it is pretentious.” Indeed, Rich wrote, much of verbiage “sounds like warmed-over David Mamet"; he added that when they “are not force-feeding us their biographies or arguing like television debaters, the climbers can be saltily amusing.”Michael Biehn as Taylor Brooks
Matt Craven as Harold Jameson
Raymond J. Barry as Phillip Claiborne
Luca Bercovici as Dallas Woolf
Patricia Charbonneau as Jackie Metcalf
Julia Nickson-Soul as Cindy Jameson
David Cubitt as Peter
Hiroshi Fujioka as Takane Shimuzu
Jamal Shah as Malik
K2 received negative reviews from critics. It currently holds a 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film was not a box office hit.
The film is available to subscribers on Netflix Instant.