Film Review – Bringing Out the Dead (1999)


Title – Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Director – Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas)

Cast – Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, Cliff Curtis

Plot – Haunted and mentally strained paramedic Frank Pierce (Cage) faces a nightmarish few nights on the streets of New York City as he struggles to maintain his sanity and save the lives of the victims he comes across.

“Don’t make me take off my sunglasses!”

Review by Eddie on 22/09/2020

When we talk about Martin Scorsese films, one of the few films that rarely gains a mention is the master’s 1999 dramatic thriller Bringing Out the Dead, a rapidly paced filmed that saw Scorsese re-team with his Raging Bull and Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader to mixed but at times brilliant results.

Adapting Joe Connolley’s novel that examines the fractured mental state of New York City paramedic Frank Pierce (played by a wide eyed Nicolas Cage) who is haunted by the ghosts of those he couldn’t save in his job whilst dealing with the Big Apple’s crazy nightlife and collection of sick and sorry people that litter its streets, it’s a unique journey that is still to this day it’s own beast.

Backed by a rock heavy soundtrack, dizzying editing by Scorsese muse Thelma Schoonmaker and some standout cinematography by the great Robert Richardson (New York appearing like some type of hellish version of its real life self), Dead is a well-made film and one that will daze its audience with its quick-fire jumping from scene to scene as we follow Pierce across a couple of incident filled nights in this hyper-real city of drug addicts, homeless lost souls and those just trying to push forward.

In the peak of his 90’s powers, before he become more well-known as an internet meme and a man whose off-screen antics are worthy of their own novels, Dead also features one of Nicolas Cage’s most perfectly suited lead roles.

Initially seeming to be on top of his problems despite his clear issues, as Pierce descends deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole of trauma and horror’s bought on by his job, Cage perfectly encapsulates a man teetering on the edge and while the film has support for Cage with the likes of Patricia Arquette, John Goodman and Ving Rhames, Dead thrives off the energy of its leading man, even if his never someone we can warm to or relate to in any particular meaningful way.

In many ways Dead feels like the poorer cousin of Scorsese classics like Taxi Driver and Wolf of Wall Street, character studies that happen to take place in Scorsese’s favorite city, but unlike those films Dead isn’t able to give us a truly memorable lead character or create a narrative that ends up culminating in an unforgettable cinematic ride.

Final Say – 

As you’d expect from a Martin Scorsese film, Bringing Out the Dead is a proficiently made feature with one of Nicolas Cage’s most perfectly suited roles but it lacks the heart and power of his best works and remains a lesser piece of his cinematic puzzle even if its far from the misfire some would have you had believe.

3 Frank Sinatra records out of 5 

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