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Overall Rating
3.57

Awesome: 31.4%
Worth A Look: 18.18%
Just Average33.88%
Pretty Crappy: 9.09%
Sucks: 7.44%

10 reviews, 61 user ratings


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Bringing Out the Dead
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by TheMole

"What's up with the super-bright-light shit?"
3 stars

Oliver Stone seemed to start it with 'JFK,' or maybe 'Talk Radio' (I haven't seen either for awhile)-- a lighting technique wherein character(s) are engulfed by or walk beneath a hallucinatory-bright spotlight. When used effectively, the device adds a surreal intensity to a scene, and when done poorly, you get halfcocked nonsense like 'Bringing Out The Dead.' Even the ambulance lights flashing across Nicholas Cage's face somehow didn't look right. And though there were a handful of terrifically bent and beautiful shots, the majority of the movie's style felt pedestrian; it felt like some conventional TV-hospital show. (WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW)

This isn't what I expect from a Martin Scorsese movie!!

However, the real problem wasn't the cinematography (it still looked better than most movies, and infinitely better than any TV show), but that the style wasn't at the service of anything even slightly resembling substance.

The main character is Frank Pierce (Cage), a burnt-out paramedic, and considering that he narrates the movie, we're given very few insights into who this person is. It's hinted that he may be sick, or is experiencing a breakdown, or maybe he's an alcoholic. Most likely it's all that and more, but whatever the case, we're told that he's undergone a transformation for the worse just before the movie starts.

Are we told why Frank wanted to become a paramedic to begin with? Why he refuses to quit even though he clearly hates the job? No--mostly what we're told (hammered repeatedly over the head with, actually) is that he feels guilty because he couldn't save the life of "Rose" six months earlier. It's six-minute character development through narration--Frank tells us why we're supposed to care about him. He's sick, he's drunk, he's haunted by the people he couldn't save, all the horrible stuff. But it might have been more effective if we were actually shown this horrible haunting stuff, if we saw Frank's character actually go through this transformation. (Eventually we do get a nicely-photographed dream sequence depicting his encounter with Rose, but it does little to make Frank more human.) I suspect the audience is meant to sympathize and identify with Frank simply because he's tortured by inner-demons...but it doesn't work that way. We need to get inside this person's head and see his demons firsthand; we don't need to fully understand them, but we certainly need an idea of their shape and form. There's no denying Travis Bickle is one demented motherfucker, but the character is tangible because we experience his frustration and humiliation and rage right there with him. Frank, on the other hand, is an enigma, and a boring one too.

Cage's performance wasn't bad so much as one-note the entire movie, and I believe the blame for this belongs more with the screenwriter and the director.

The screenplay is by Paul Schrader, who also wrote 'Taxi Driver,' and it shows in the worst possible way. I'm unfamiliar with the book this screenplay's based on, but much of the movie felt like the poor half-retarded third cousin of 'Taxi Driver'. How could Scorsese not have seen what's so clear in the movie, that this story has virtually no narrative plot, and even less character development?

And how, in the name of all holies, could Scorsese not recognize the abysmal performance Patricia Arquette was giving? (It shocks me to no end when a great director lets a bad performance slip into one of their movies! For crikey's sake, did Francis Ford Coppola actually think Keanu was GOOD?!) I've been hesitant to jump off her bandwagon, mostly because of 'True Romance,' but man o man did she stink up the joint in this movie! Even a poorly written character can be interesting in the hands of a capable thespian, but Arquette was like a Hoover Upright, sucking all life and realism out of her scenes till they lay helplessly floundering.

And for a movie about a NYC paramedic, frankly I was expecting more blood and guts, I expected the screen to be splattered with gore. But until a scene toward the end, all we get is drunks and mental patients and cardiac arrests. And the ER waiting room scenes were ridiculous--I don't doubt it gets bad in such places, but Scorsese somehow manages to make it look like an idiotic Barnum&Baily sideshow.

And what the HELL'S up with the super-bright-lights? It's like in every other scene a character is supposed to be seeing an angel or entering the Kingdom of Heaven or something.

And could Frank's obsession with Rose ("the-patient-he-couldn't-save") have possibly been more tedious? And could that "gimme-some-water" freak have been more annoying? Dear God I was rooting for the evil-paramedic to beat the poor dumb bastard to death--I was pissed that Frank saved the character! And I have a hunch that's not the reaction Scorsese was going for.

And for a movie with so little plot, it relied pretty heavily on absurd coincidences, like having Frank run into the "gimme-water" freak every other scene--and having to rescue the same drug dealer he encountered not ten minutes earlier. Fooey!

And "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"? And "WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH?"?!!

There's maybe twenty to thirty minutes of good--sometimes great--material strewn throughout this fiasco. A few good laughs. But most of it's less than inspired; the Scorsese touch is still evident, he just needs some decent material.

Much of what's wrong with this movie is encapsulated in the final scene: Mr. Cage goes to tell Mrs. Cage that her father has passed away (in fact he has killed her father because he [sic] psychically heard him pleading to be put out of his misery [either that or he's insane, you decide!]), and then Mr. Cage is haunted by the face of Rose (for about the umpteen-millionth time in the movie) and he asks for forgiveness and Mrs. Cage humors the poor crazy bastard, and they go inside and she lets him use her bosom as a pillow, and then...

...and then they're slowly flooded by way-too-bright light, and it's like I sat on the remote and accidentally turned the channel from 'ER' to 'Touched By An Angel'. AHHHHHHH!*%#&!!!

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1970&reviewer=177
originally posted: 11/04/99 08:04:58
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell bringing out the boredom too it blows 1 stars
3/16/15 PAUL SHORTT EXCITING, IMMACULATELY CRAFTED AND EXHILARATINGLY PACED 4 stars
10/06/13 David An absolutely wonderful film 5 stars
9/16/13 mr.mike One of Scorcese's lesser films. 3 stars
8/19/09 Jeff Wilder Effective. Not on the level of Taxi Driver or Goodfellas. But still takes a piece out. 4 stars
11/26/08 CTT Not Scorsese's best, but still watchable 4 stars
12/17/05 Jeff Anderson Very disappointing. See Scott Ziehl's brilliant BROKEN VESSELS instead, a MUCH better film! 2 stars
8/23/05 ES Could have been better 3 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands One of the darkest movies I've ever found funny. Good, riveting stuff from Sir Scorsese. 5 stars
5/24/05 Jake Disappointing effort from Martin Scorsese 3 stars
3/07/05 Mason great remake of Taxi Driver, should have been called Ambulace Driver 4 stars
12/28/04 Steve Newman Could not get into this film - worth a watch only 4 stars
6/26/03 cochese Being a Paramedic, I can say this movie is disturbing- yet it is entertaining. 4 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Visually interesting but emotionally aloof. Cage is merely adequate. 2 stars
1/12/03 Stevo not one of the better scorceses, but still an engrossing, traumatic, very good movie 4 stars
6/13/02 erick an absolutly amazing fillm 5 stars
4/05/02 Junshi For some reason, all I remember was how much I laughed. 3 stars
3/05/02 natasha an almost religious experience; visually stunning and emotionally wrenching 5 stars
11/21/01 daniboy amazing. even marc anthony. 5 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean Great cinematography, great director, aimless movie 3 stars
8/28/01 Sarah No heros here, just normal ppl trying to get through their day sane 4 stars
7/02/01 J My 1st experience with Scorsese and I wonder if this will be my best. 5 stars
11/22/00 Kimberly Joubert wonderful enlighting scorsese film 4 stars
11/17/00 2sleeepy great sound effects 5 stars
10/01/00 Madoc69 very dark and very good M.S. and Cage at their best 5 stars
9/29/00 Jed Clearly one of the best films of 1999. I hope M.S's other films are this good. 5 stars
8/28/00 Add Very powerful, excellent visuals, great performances but maybe 2 different 4 some people. 4 stars
7/13/00 Bruce Scorsese shows that he still has it. 5 stars
7/01/00 Trina M. Barnard the dumbest movie I've ever saw, turn it off it was so boring. 1 stars
6/28/00 Monday Morning Nic at Nite...or anytime...is good. Film was pointless though. 3 stars
6/26/00 stranded on the Island Great acting on this one; don't expect typical hollywood (i.e. fluff) though! 5 stars
6/19/00 Ulatekk Two hours of my life I will never get back... 1 stars
6/12/00 Andrew Incredible 5 stars
6/03/00 Dallastech I sucked because of the plot or shall i saw lack of..... 2 stars
5/21/00 Jess Damn good performances and visual stimulation. 4 stars
5/17/00 michael visually stunning, wonderful sound, great script what more do you want?! 5 stars
5/12/00 The Bomb 69 scorsese was all over the place and most of it sucked 2 stars
5/12/00 Overflow Bitch Sensational. Dark yet inspiring. Cage is incredible as usual. 5 stars
4/24/00 John Lyons Absolute waste of Nick Cage! Wasted my money on this one. 1 stars
4/24/00 Belinda I walked out - RUBBISH 1 stars
2/21/00 toneely the worst movie ever..HORRIBLE 1 stars
1/13/00 Matthew Bartley Remove Arquette and it would be damn near perfect. 5 stars
12/10/99 xiong But how to explain Patricia Arquette's career? 4 stars
11/28/99 Chet Patel Great film about a man questioning his life, and what he has accoplished in his job? 4 stars
11/23/99 PJ Visually brilliant and intense. Not his best, but better than most of h'wood's other shit. 5 stars
11/08/99 pipeman Scorsese shoots, he misses. He really fucking misses. Ack! Ptui! 1 stars
11/08/99 Dominique This was more frustrating than entertaining or enlightening. Shame! Shame! Shame! 1 stars
11/06/99 Roman No real plot but had some funny moments 3 stars
11/01/99 shiraz hallucinatory taxi driver on speed; critics love it but watch it only for film class 3 stars
11/01/99 PhilmPhreak It was OK, but no Taxi Driver. 3 stars
10/31/99 john worst movie Ive seen in years 1 stars
10/30/99 C.A.T.M. Maybe it's getting better ratings than it deserves, but it was intense never-the-less. 4 stars
10/28/99 Hojo Premium stuff from Cage, Sizemore, Rhames, & Goodman, & a well-made (if boring) story 4 stars
10/27/99 Mr Showbiz Stunning to look at, but dramatically unfulfilling. 4 stars
10/27/99 Gi & Ty Almost all of the ten people in the theater were sleeping and bored out of their minds 2 stars
10/26/99 Linda W I liked the camera work alot the theme was to schizoid and frantic I needed a valium. 3 stars
10/25/99 TheAngryMob This movie was great!!! 5 stars
10/25/99 Max Lethal Good, but left me feeling like I deserved more... 3 stars
10/24/99 danimal super cool, and good to see M.S. back 5 stars
10/23/99 Janet Hold on, Lady, we go for a ride! Cage at his edginess. 5 stars
10/22/99 gezick style, in the ultimate, never since Taxi Driver have we seen such exquisite fast motion 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Oct-1999 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Apr-2000 (R)




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