Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Saving a life is the ultimate rush.

Once called Father Frank for his efforts to rescue lives, Frank sees the ghosts of those he failed to save around every turn. He has tried everything he can to get fired, calling in sick, delaying taking calls where he might have to face one more victim he couldn't help, yet cannot quit the job on his own.

Powerful and engrossing cinema from a truly great team.
Frank Pierce is a member of the Nork York paramedics, serving the Hell's Kitchen district he is witness to some terrible incidents. As he starts to crack under the pressure of the job, and getting no help from a succession of zany partners, Frank may just find solace with an ex-junkie girl who's father he brought in dying of a heart attack.
Martin Scorsese can never be accused of not being adventurous, after dabbling in Eastern spiritualism with 1997s Kundun, he returns to New York and tackles a wing of America's tortured heroes. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, Bringing Out The Dead is at times a difficult watch in many ways, but it's haunting poignancy is told with brilliantly adroit ease from one of America's famed directors, whilst it has to be said that the humour that is in there is darkly genius in its execution. We are along for the ride with haunted Frank for three days (and nights) as he and his borderline bonkers partners deal with overdoses, heart attacks, drunks and a notably cynical virgin birth! As Frank starts to see ghosts of people he couldn't save in the past, Scorsese and his team treat us to an adrenalin fuelled nightmare, the editing (Thelma Schoonmaker) is swift and explosive like, Robert Richardson's cinematography framing certain aspects of this journey with impacting deftness, and then we have the soundtrack.
Scorsese is always a man who takes great care in sound tracking his movies, in fact few modern day directors can touch his knack for a perfect soundtrack. Fusing Motown with 70s Punk Rock would seem an odd combination, but all of it works as the paramedics start to feel the strain and (in some cases) as the mania takes hold. It's rare to hear a New York Dolls track in a movie, to hear a Johnny Thunders solo track is as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian, and here the use of Thunders' You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory is pitch perfect, impacting so. Such is the use of early Clash standards as our protagonists feed off each others precarious mental conditions, it's a soundtrack to savour basically.
Nicholas Cage plays Frank Pierce, and it's a great performance full of restraint and honesty, it's the sort of performance that his detractors tend to forget about such is its emotive simplicity. Tom Sizemore (wonderfully manic), Ving Rhames, John Goodman and Patricia Arquette fill out the cast and all do fine work, but I'm sure they would be the first to acknowledge the excellence of Paul Schrader's screenplay. This piece is far from being a masterpiece, but with it's intensity sitting side by side with a paramedics need for coping, it's clear that Scorsese and his talented team have made one of the most astute and undervalued pieces of the 90s. 9/10

Touchstone Pictures, De Fina-Cappa, Paramount by Martin Scorsese, Joe Connelly, Paul Schrader.
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames.

Genres: Drama, Thriller

Keywords: new york city coma ambulance night life drug addiction hallucination dying and death night ambulance man alcoholism teacher hospital violence city drugs illegal prostitution road movie euthanasia

10/22/1999

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