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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 Greg King
3½ stars out of 4

Martin Scorsese returns to the mean streets of New York for this blistering, intense and frenetically paced journey through 56 hours in the life of a traumatised paramedic. Paramedics are the emergency response medical teams that nightly race through the cesspool of a major city in decay, dealing with alcoholics, drug overdoses, violence, suicide, death and misery, and cleaning up the human detritus.

Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) is a burnt out case, fuelled by a mixture of booze, pills, adrenaline, and haunted by the ghosts of those he has been unable to save - in particular, Rosa, a teenage Puerto Rican girl. Then he begins a relationship with Mary Burke (Cage's real life wife Patricia Arquette), the daughter of a heart attack victim, and briefly glimpses a hope of salvation. We gain more insight into Frank's fragile state through the contrast of his three partners, who all have their own way of dealing with the pressures. Larry (John Goodman) is an essentially decent man who remains detached from the carnage he witnesses on a nightly basis. The fast talking and deeply religious Marcus (Ving Rhames) uses a sense of humour as a defence mechanism, while Tom (Tom Sizemore) is a volatile, blunt and colourful sociopath who loves taking risks.

Taking a break from action hero mode, Cage returns to the type of intense, flawed every man that he plays so convincingly. His drawn, haunted looking face, dishevelled and manic appearance are perfectly suited to his role here as a man on the brink of a breakdown and barely able to cope with the pressures of his job.

Bringing Out The Dead is based on the best selling novel written by Joe Connelly, himself a former paramedic, who spent ten years with the New York service, and worked on the film as a technical adviser. Script writer Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, etc) brings a gritty, blackly comic edge to the material, which Scorsese directs with his typical relentless energy and cinematic flair. He brings a frantic quality and uncompromising realism to the film, which is shaped by his brilliant mix of music, stunning visual verve and deft use of symbolism. Veteran cinematographer Robert Richardson creates a surreal portrait of New York, and his dazzling, dizzy camera races through the city at breakneck speed.

If you thought the emergency room of a certain television series was weird, here Scorsese depicts it as anarchic, chaotic and combustible, giving these scenes a nightmarish quality. Bringing Out The Dead is a powerful return to form for Scorsese, one of America's finest directors.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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