Bringing Out The Dead
Details: (R18+), 121 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) is an ambulance paramedic working the night shift on the mean streets of New York City. While his co-driver Larry (John Goodman), and fellow paramedics Marcus (Ving Rhames) and Tom (Tom Sizemore) have managed to more or less distance themselves emotionally from the suffering and death that confronts them each day, Frank is fast approaching a complete mental and physical meltdown. Haunted by visions of a young asthmatic whom he could not save, his fall into the abyss is delayed one night when he runs into Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), a recovering junkie. Though her hold on sanity proves to be even more tenuous than his, Frank is convinced that by saving her, his own demons will be placated and some sort of salvation will ensue. Over a period of 48 hours, this fragile, shell-shocked pair will travel all the way to hell and back.
Another successful collaboration between Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader.
Nicolas Cage is an actor of extraordinary range and texture – he can play goofy, he can play action man, and as Leaving Las Vegas proved, he can deliver a performance of exquisite depth... and that's pretty much what's required of him in Bringing Out the Dead.
He's Frank Pierce, a paramedic, driving an ambulance around the mean streets of New York and his job's getting to him. He regards every death as a personal failure and he's starting to see the ghosts of people; he's starting to believe in spirits leaving the body and not wanting to come back, which is a bit of a problem when he's able to revive a heart attack victim whom he believes really wants to die. And the problem becomes even more stressful when he gets involved with the patient's estranged daughter Mary (Patricia Arquette).
Bringing Out the Dead is the fourth collaboration between screenwriter Paul Schrader and Scorsese – after Taxi Driver – with which this film could be seen to have similarities, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ and it's a dour film, full of aural and visual assaults – we really get to know what it's like being Frank. But this is a film which addresses spirituality, our quest for peace in a chaotic and troublesome world, written by a man brought up in the strictest Calvinist traditions and directed by Scorsese who at one time considered becoming a priest. There are so few films which dare to involve us in that quest, there are so few films which are made with quite the expertise of this one – Scorsese interestingly used Robert Richardson as cinematographer – the images are daring, confronting, visceral. It's one of those films the more you think about it, the more it resonates.
Scorsese and Schrader reunite for another descent into the hell of New York – but this time there's a skewed comic twist on this story of an ambulance driver's search for redemption. Stunning to look at, the film's a shade too long, but the sustained performance of Nicolas Cage and the wonderful star turns of Tom Sizemore, John Goodman and Ving Rhames are great. Don't underrate Patricia Arquette either. Not the greatest Scorsese, but still a pretty formidable film.
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