Runtime: 2 Hours
and 1 Minute
"Saving a person's life is like falling in love. It's the perfect
These are the words of Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), a New York City
paramedic who, with these words, sums up the very essence of his occupation.
It is in this essence that Director Martin Scorsese allows the viewer
to languish for three days in Frank's life. In doing so he shows us
a world many of us would like to think doesn't exist. That is why
there are director's like Scorsese in the world. They are here to
tell the tough stories. The sort of a story that is analagous to a
car wreck: We don't want to look, but we do anyway to satisfy our
We meet Frank at the outset of the film. He is a man who is at the
end of his rope. It has been six months, since he last saved a life.
That sad fact has begun to take it's toll on Frank's entire being.
Much like Haley Joel Osment, Frank sees dead people. In particular,
he sees a teenaged girl that he was unable to save some months ago.
He sees her face everywhere he looks. She appears as a prostitute,
a pregnant woman, and even a drunken old man. He cannot escape her.
It is this image, along with all of the others he has been unable
to save, that haunts his every waking moment. This is Frank when we
meet him the first night.
It is a Thursday, and he is teamed up with Larry (John Goodman) for
the night. Larry aspires to get off the streets and become a Captain.
He plans on taking the exams a few months down the road. In the meantime,
he keeps himself on track by knowing exactly what he is going to eat
that night, long before his shift ever begins. During the night they
are called to a home where a cardiac arrest has taken place. While
trying to revive the man, Frank meets the man's daughter, Mary (Patricia
Arquette). Mary soon becomes Frank's link to reality. He knows nothing
of life anymore, so he clings to what he can to hang on. They don't
exactly form a relationship in the typical sense. Theirs is more of
a give and take relationship that revolves around them keeping each
other sane than becoming an item so to speak. After this call, Larry
and Frank have an assortment of other stops during the night. Including
a "regular" and a suicide attempt. To Frank this is normal.
He has come to know this as routine.
On the second night he is hooked up with Marcus (Ving Rhames). Marcus
chooses to make it through his nights by relying on the world. He
also enjoys looking at hookers and flashing his cash at them. There
are many more calls on this night. It gets to the point that Frank
fears hearing the dispatcher's voice. He has to turn to alcohol to
get through this night. It is all he can think of that will keep him
On the third night, Frank is paired with Tom Walls (Tom Sizemore).
Tom has gone over the edge. He has taken to beating some of his patients
due to his frustration with them. At one point this goes to far and
Frank feels compelled to save this patient. It is something of a breakthrough
for Frank, because he has finally "saved" someone. It is
on this night that Frank finds that feeling of "the perfect drug"
that is saving a person's life.
What happens from there is what takes this movie from being an "A"
to a "B+" in my book. The ending was a total letdown. I
guess I can see what Scorsese was trying to do, but it just doesn't
work for me. It's one of those endings where you are left there, when
the screen goes black, thinking, "Okay, that's not the end. That
couldn't be the end." Unfortunately it is the end. In all fairness
to Scorsese, this is a difficult movie to end, but he IS Martin Scorsese.
What that means is that the viewer expects a little more. Instead
we get a lot less.
On the positive side the performances are all upper tier. Cage is
perfect as Frank. There are times when it feels like Cage is about
to go into overact mode, but he rides the fine line between overacting
and brilliance with great precision. Ving Rhames is his usual delightful
self. What is it with him and these religious centered characters?
First "Out of Sight" and now "Bringing Out The Dead."
Whatever the case may be. He is perfect as Marcus. Even Patricia Arquette
does a fine job as Mary. I haven't seen her in much, other than "True
Romance," but she does a fine job here. She balances her hatred
for her father with her shaky past, while finding some form of innocence
"Bringing Out The Dead" is not without a lighter side, but
it only creeps up in a few instances such as the scenes with Frank
and his Captain. Frank wants to be fired, but his boss won't do it,
because he doesn't like to take orders. These are about the only lighter
moments in the film. There are others where the humor is more subjective.
Otherwise the film presses down upon your being with the weight of
the world on your chest.
"Bringing Out The Dead" is a masterfully shot film. It feels
as if Scorsese has taken us back to the world he created in "Taxi
Driver." The night driving scenes harken back to Travis Bickle's
cab making it's way through these very same streets some twenty-plus
If you are a fan of Scorsese, or enjoy gritty real life drama, you
will not want to miss "Bringing Out The Dead." It is a brutally
honest visual feast that is a joy to the eyes, while bringing great
sadness to your soul.
Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out The Dead" is another notch
in his obviously-impressive belt. It's a character study of Frank Pierce,
a paramedic slipping closer and closer to insanity because he hasn't
saved a life in six months. The movie strikes a genuine chord as well,
documenting three consecutive nights on the job with three different
partners who handle stress in their own way. Nights can go from action-packed
to boring and monotonous. For every high-stress situation, there's also
time to drink coffee, debate about where to eat and look at hookers.
The movie is a surreal experience at times. Consider the first time
we're introduced to Our Lady of Perpetual Mercy hospital, when Pierce
(Nicolas Cage) and Larry (John Goodman) bring a heart-attack victim
in. Chaos ensues. Cops refuse to let certain people in, often threatening
to take off their sunglasses and get mean. Nurses lecture druggies on
how they'll be back because they're too stupid to stay away from the
junk. Doctors pile up patients and tie up others. There's a lot of noise.
Fights break out.
A lot of this carries over into the streets. This movie echoes "Taxi
Driver" in how the medics peer out of the window and see the
dregs of humanity scurrying about, all potential victims who might need
assistance. The medics get called into all sorts of weird situations,
very few actually requiring the medical skills the medics possess.
Frank, meanwhile, is haunted by images of the girl he lost six months
ago. He can't sleep well. He rarely eats. He begs his boss to fire him.
Every time the CB radio crackles on, he jumps a bit, scared of what
his next assignment could call for.
His three partners are important to the film, each telling Frank of
how they handle all the stress. Larry doesn't worry about it, and spends
more time wondering if they should order Chinese food or not. Marcus
(Ving Rhames, in a great role) gets by with the help of the Lord, and
focuses on the good stuff they do, not the bad. And finally, Tom Wolls
(Tom Sizemore, also a solid role) drives the streets searching for blood,
ready for fun, looking to pull jokes, obviously a tad on the unstable
The third night on the job is the most important one. This is where
Frank has reached his breaking point, and seeing him together with Wolls
makes for some of the best scenes in the movie. The movie crackles with
energy at this point.
Of course, there's the love interest, the daughter of the heart-attack
victim Frank has saved, at least for the time being. He sees her a lot,
and they engage in some idle chatter, some personal stuff, and they
grow closer, but not too close, which would seem forced. Frank needs
her, but first he must get the redemption he seeks.
This movie is visually-exciting to boot. There are too many scenes to
go into, but let it be said that Scorsese can get across in one shot
what takes other directors several. His use of music is just as good
"Bringing Out The Dead" is a wild ride, full of energy and
excitement one minute, funny the next and gut-wrenching the next. Martin
Scorsese truly is the master. Highly recommended.