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
"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
* * * * * - 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