BRINGING OUT THE DEAD
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
AUGUST 27, 2010
Martin Scorsese is one of the last great film directors. Any critic would be hard-pressed to find a misfire in Scorsese’s anthology, past or present. As Scorsese continues to prove himself today, after 40 years in the business, revisiting his classics provides a perfect way to see how Scorsese has progressed over the years. “Bringing Out The Dead” is one of Scorsese’s best undertakings, exemplifying Nicolas Cage’s acting ability and author Joe Connelly’s writing ability.
“Bringing Out The Dead” is the product of author Joe Connelly, known for writing only two novels. You can chalk up this particular story adapted to screenplay and the other, “Crumbtown,” as Connelly’s misfire. Connelly delivers a gripping story about an EMT working the graveyard shift in Hell’s Kitchen for a one-hit-wonder. Before becoming an author, Connelly spent time in Hell’s Kitchen as a graveyard shift EMT, producing the book’s reason, and therefore the film, ring so honest and lifelike.
Nicolas Cage takes Scorsese’s expert direction and Joe Connelly’s soul-shaking story and breathes life into the role of Frank that no other actor could even imagine. On a massive string of his career’s best parts in the late ’90s, including “Snake Eyes,” “Face/Off,” “8MM,” and “City Of Angels,” Cage delivers the patented Cage craziness, enveloping the role like only he can.
Frank is good at what he does. But insomnia and a constant nightly battle of trying to save people are getting to him. Night after night, he begs his superior to fire him but ends up going out and attempting the work of God. As the calls keep coming in (one even from Martin Scorsese’s voice), the nights are filled with excitement. From drunks reeking in the back of the ambulance, homeless Marc Anthony spraying blood as he shakes his dreaded hair as he begs for water, and even the crashing of the ambulance itself after a night of no sleep and paranoia. Frank has started facing his demons, precisely one by Rose’s name, which he failed to save before the film.
Several characters play large roles in the three nights that the audience spends with Frank. The first is Larry, played brilliantly by John Goodman. Larry’s only worry in life is his next meal as he drives Frank around on night one. Yet Larry still supports Frank, even having a doctor pronounce the time of death for a deceased patient over the phone (he ends up living). And Goodman supplies a comedic element all his own, including a scene where Cage wakes him unexpectedly and sends him driving the ambulance towards the end of a pier in a state of shock and excitement. Frank also meets a woman named Mary (Patricia Arquette) while trying to revive her father. Mary frequents the film more than any other character besides Frank and provides a glimpse of hope for the film’s dismal tone.
As the gospel preaching ambulance driver, Ving Rhames, Marcus provides excitement as he joins hands with a group of punk rocker teens, using the “praise of God” to revive their drug-overdosed friend while Frank tends to him medically. Tom Sizemore adds a wild card to the group as Frank’s old partner in crime, who now takes his aggressions out on the likes of junkies looking for medical attention.
“Bringing Out The Dead” produces such an abundance of dramatic interest, the film persists to be anything less than perfection. Martin Scorsese, Joe Connelly, and Nicolas Cage prove to be a group of individuals to be reckoned with, all displaying their absolute bests. With a supporting cast to die for, “Bringing Out The Dead” begs for multiple viewings. If you notice, Scorsese never partakes in remakes or any films that resemble what other directors produce throughout the years. Pair Scorsese with a brilliantly eccentric man like Nicolas Cage, and an entirely new world opens up.
October 22, 1999
“Bringing Out the Dead”
by Joe Connelly
(for gritty violent content, drug use and language)
Mary Beth Hurt
Barbara De Fina