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Bringing out the Dead

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bringing out the Dead

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: October 1999
Genres: Drama, Comedy

*Also starring: Tom Sizemore, John Goodman, Marc Anthony, Ving Rhames

Review by John Beachem
2 stars out of 4

If there is one thing Martin Scoresese's new film, "Bringing out the Dead" proves, it is that great actors and great directing cannot save a weak script. Don't get me wrong, Paul Schrader's script does contain quite a few truly hilarious scenes, and some wonderful characters, but it is marred by long stretches of boring, useless material. While the previews talk about Nicholas Cage's character, Frank Pierce, seeing ghosts all around him, this is really nothing more than a rather pointless subplot.

Frank Pierce is a paramedic in New York city. While once good at this job, witnessing the suffering and death around him has taken its toll. Now, he hasn't saved a life in months, and his nights are filled with ghostly images of a young lady he was unable to save. His three partners, Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames), and Tom (Tom Sizemore), each deal with their jobs in different ways, but aren't able to help Frank with his troubles. The only person able to bring anything into Frank's life is Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), a young lady whos father has suffered a heart attack and is staying at Frank's hospital.

"Bringing out the Dead" certainly contains moments of shear brilliance. The greatest example of this can be found in the use of the film's wonderful soundtrack. Each song completely enhances the scene in which it is played. From UB40's "Red, Red Wine" being played during a scene in which goldfish lie dying upon a blood soaked floor, to "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" playing while Frank's ambulance flies across the darkened city streets. If only the music had been able to enhance scenes in which Frank stares out at the ghost of the girl, Rose (Cynthia Roman) appears at random, for no apparent reason.

The supporting cast is wonderful here, though underused. John Goodman, great in an almost pointless role, plays a character similar to Frank, though less haunted. Ving Rhames, in one of his best performances yet (and that's saying something), plays a much more hopeful man, who believes he is playing an important role in these peoples' lives. Last but not least, the always wonderful, if underrated Tom Sizemore plays a man who can't seem to decide if he wants to help people or hurt them. If these three men had been present a bit more often, this truly would have helped the film.

Nicholas Cage plays Nicholas Cage to perfection. No, that is not a typo, I personally believe that Mr. Cage simply plays himself in dozens of different roles. Always a depressed, moody, dour man who mutters on and on about how he can't take life any longer. Patricia Arquette fares better as the troubled drug addict who can't come to terms with how she feels about her dying father. The scenes between the two are well written and well acted, and the blossoming romance never feels forced.

>From what I have said so far, it must sound as though my star rating is a little too harsh. This is not the case, since I found myself falling asleep during many segments which served no purpose, and which seemed to drag on forever. The other major fault, as mentioned earlier, is the underuse of the other three paramedics. While they were on screen, those three actors brought a spark to the otherwise rather lifeless script. When absent, the film sputtered and died.

"Bringing out the Dead" runs too long at 120 minutes which could easily have been chopped down to 100. I reccomend that if you really want to see it, wait for video, since little should be lost in the transition. I grant it three stars. One last comment. For those of you who noticed that the title was taken from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", there is a brief line in the film acknowledging this.

* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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