Proof Review: Bringing Out The Dead (1999)

Release Date
October 22, 1999
Director
Martin Scorsese
Screenplay
Paul Schrader
Based On The Novel By
Joe Connelly
Distributed By
Paramount Pictures
Budget
$32 million
Drama, Thriller
Rated R For Gritty Violent Content, Drug Use and Language
118 minutes

Bringing Out The Dead

Martin Scorsese is one of the last great film directors. Any critic would be hard pressed to find a misfire in Scorsese’s anthology, past or present. As Scorsese continues to prove himself today, after 40 years in the business, revisiting his classics provides a perfect way to see how Scorsese has progressed over the years. Bringing Out The Dead is one of Scorsese’s best undertakings, exemplifying the acting ability of Nicolas Cage as well as the writing ability of author Joe Connelly.

Bringing Out The Dead is the product of author Joe Connelly, known for writing only two novels, one of which is this particular story adapted to screenplay and, the other, Crumbtown, which can be chalked up as Connelly‘s misfire. For a one hit wonder, Connelly delivers a gripping story about an EMT working the graveyard shift in Hell‘s Kitchen. Before becoming an author, Connelly actually spent time in Hell’s Kitchen as a graveyard shift EMT, producing the reason that the book, and therefore the film, ring so honest and lifelike.

Nicolas Cage takes Scorsese’s expert direction and Joe Connelly’s soul shaking story and breathes a life into the role of Frank that no other actor could even imagine. Cage, on a huge string of the best roles of his career in the late 90’s, including Snake Eyes, Face/Off, 8MM, and City Of Angels delivers the patented Cage craziness, enveloping the role like only he can.

Frank is good at what he does. But the insomnia and constant nightly battle of trying to save people is getting to him. Night after night he begs his superior to fire him but ends up going out and attempting the work of God. As the calls keep coming in (one even from the voice of Martin Scorsese himself), the nights are filled with excitement from drunks reeking in the back of the ambulance, homeless Marc Anthony spraying blood as he shakes his dreaded hair as he begs for water, and even the crashing of the ambulance itself after a night of no sleep and paranoia. Frank has started facing his demons, specifically one by the name of Rose, who he failed to save prior to the film.

Several characters play large roles in the three nights that the audience spends with Frank. The first is Larry, played brilliantly by John Goodman. Larry’s only worry in life is his next meal as he drives Frank around on night one. Yet Larry still supports Frank, even having a doctor pronounce the time of death for a deceased patient over the phone (he actually ends up living…oops). And Goodman supplies a comedic element all his own, including a scene where Cage wakes him unexpectedly and sends him driving the ambulance towards the end of a pier in a state of shock and excitement. Frank also meets a woman named Mary (Patricia Arquette) while trying to revive her father. Mary frequents the film more than any other character besides Frank and provides a glimpse of hope for the dismal tone of the film.

Ving Rhames as the gospel preaching ambulance driver, Marcus, provides excitement, as he joins hands with a group of punk rocker teens, using the “praise of God” to revive their drug-overdosed friend while Frank tends to him medically. Tom Sizemore adds a wild card to the group as Frank’s old partner in crime, who now takes his aggressions out on the likes of junkies looking for medical attention.

Bringing Out The Dead produces such an abundance of dramatic interest, the film persists to be anything less than perfection. Martin Scorsese, Joe Connelly, and Nicolas Cage prove to be a group of individuals to be reckoned with, all displaying their absolute bests. With a supporting cast to die for, Bringing Out The Dead begs for multiple viewings. If you happen to notice, Scorsese never partakes in remakes or any films that even resemble what other directors produce throughout the years. Pair Scorsese with a brilliantly eccentric man like Nicolas Cage and an entirely new world opens up.

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