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BRINGING OUT THE DEAD

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.

"In this edgy and inventive New York story, Scorcese displays bravura filmmaking, with all the assurance and flair of a veteran at juggling and juxtaposing contrasting scenes like a juggler with knives, torches and oranges. From the musical blues of the opening scene to the visual blues of the closing scene, Scorcese torches the screen with adrenalin, emotion and sheer daredevil cinema as he transposes Joe Connelly's very personal book of his ambo driving experiences into graphic images that dance, meander, lurch, sway, plummet and whizz across the screen. Cage is the anchor, the camera often lingering on his stubbly face, his darkly shadowed eyes, his gobsmacked gaze, as his narrator's voice counts down the dramas and tragedies of life on New York's streets as a paramedic. As we grow familiar with this milieu, we begin to gain the kind of insight for which Scorsese aims: visceral, painful, imaginably hateful, human and unforgiving but ultimately not at all glorious. It is a dark film, a film of interior pain and anguish which we are brought to understand: hence its success as cinema. Perhaps it is a very personal film, eliciting a very personal response, and its darkness is unrelenting, challenging and yet caustically real. Yet, as in life, seeping irrepressibly through the dank cracks are sprigs of humour and warmth - which are symbols o the elusive objects of our protagonists' desire. And Scorsese delivers a subtle but important payoff with a single, simple, moving final shot that gives us emotional closure. Cage, Arquette, Scorsese and everyone else (lordy, what a great soundtrack!) making it deserve praise for this honest and valid (if a little distorted) mirror of their surrounding society. It makes you think and feel at the same time."
Andrew L. Urban

"Not at all a disappointment for me, rather the opposite. Scorcese displays bravura filmmaking, with all the assurance and flair of a veteran at juggling and juxtaposing contrasting scenes like a juggler with knives, torches and oranges. From the musical blues of the opening scene to the visual blues of the closing scene, Scorcese torches the screen with adrenalin, emotion and sheer daredevil cinema as he transposes Joe Connelly's very personal book of his ambo driving experiences into graphic images that dance, meander, lurch, sway, plummet and whizz across the screen. Cage is the anchor, the camera often lingering on his stubbly face, his darkly shadowed eyes, his gobsmacked gaze, as his narrator's voice counts down the dramas and tragedies of life on New York's streets as a paramedic. As we grow familiar with this milieu, we begin to gain the kind of insight for which Scorsese aims: visceral, painful, imaginably hateful, human and unforgiving but ultimately not at all glorious. It is a dark film, a film of interior pain and anguish which we are brought to understand: hence its success as cinema. Perhaps it is a very personal film, eliciting a very personal response, and its darkness is unrelenting, challenging and yet caustically real. Yet, as in life, seeping irrepressibly through the dank cracks are sprigs of humour and warmth - which are symbols o the elusive objects of our protagonists' desire. And Scorsese delivers a subtle but important payoff with a single, simple, moving final shot that gives us emotional closure. Cage, Arquette, Scorsese and everyone else (lordy, what a great soundtrack!) making it deserve praise for this honest and valid (if a little distorted) mirror of their surrounding society. It makes you think and feel at the same time."
Andrew L. Urban

"Elmer Bernstein's music pierces the soul throughout Bringing Out the Dead, an extraordinary edgy drama set in the underbelly of the night. Martin Scorsese's superb direction makes this upside down unreal world into a fascinating experience; it's a little like visiting Pluto of the underworld, when the extraordinary becomes ordinary, the unimaginable is the norm and emotions are as high pitched as a squealing puppy. The relief comes in the form of humour black, biting humour that allows the individual to cope with the trauma, the stress, the sleep depravation and the converse, unreal nature of everyday life. And we are sucked right in. Filled with drama and tension, the action is often theatrical from the repartee between the paramedics to the hysterical exchanges and desperate hunger in finding new ways of coping. Nicolas Cage is the ultimate 'soulful' actor; his portrayal of the paramedic whose mission to save a life is really to save his own, is heartbreakingly compelling. 'Saving someone's life is like falling in love,' we are told. 'The best day in the world you have saved your own life as well, and for a moment God was you.' All he wants to do is sleep, but is kept awake by the demons of lives he failed to save, and sinks into an abyss of self-inflicted guilt. It's about staying in control while the rest of the world has none. Shot almost entirely at night with a superlative cast, this totally different perspective on life and death is riveting, haunting cinema. Bringing Out the Dead is an explosive collision of emotions on a rollercoaster to nowhere. And while the topic may sound grim and depressing, this film is anything but that. It will disturb you, but it's a journey you'll be compelled to revisit during reflective moments."
Louise Keller

"For their fourth screen collaboration, director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader have cast their collective gaze upon the same oppressively grim urban wasteland that their own Travis Bickle once called home some twenty five years earlier. And while it would be wrong to label Bringing Out The Dead as a sequel to Taxi Driver, the fact that it addresses one of the latter's central themes - the cause and effect of contemporary insanity - is reason enough to make it a fitting companion piece. DeNiro's Bickle and Cage's Pierce are incarnations of a character that has loomed large in all of Schrader's work - the quintessential loner who can never pass a reality check. Unlike the seriously delusional Bickle or, more recently, Michael Douglas' D-FENS from Schumacher's excellent Falling Down, Pierce is not about to solve his problems by going on a bloody rampage. He's more like Peter Finch's Network character - mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore. As played by Nicolas Cage, whose past roles indicate that he can do "crazy" while standing on his head, the wild-eyed, short-circuiting Pierce turns out to be the film's one significant drawcard. Otherwise, Bringing Out The Dead finds Scorsese treading water while his cameras prowl the neon landscape in search of whatever human detritus the night can offer. In the absence of a linear narrative, it's only a matter of time before the largely voyeuristic montage of anecdotal set-pieces begin to numb the senses faster than a shot of novacaine. A huge disappointment."
Leo Cameron

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (R)
(US)

CAST: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, Marc Anthony, Cliff Curtis

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

PRODUCER: Scott Rudin, Barbara de Fina

SCRIPT: Paul Schrader

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker Powell

MUSIC: Elmer Bernstein

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dante Ferretti

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 20, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: October 25, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International Home Entertainment







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