Bringing Out The Dead


Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by:Paul Schrader
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Mary Beth Hurt, Tom Sizemore, Marc Anthony
Released: June 15, 2000
Grade: A-

Frank Pierce (Cage) is an ambulance attendant.  In the past, he loved his job and the thrill of saving somebody’s life.  Now things are different and Frank is deeply depressed.  Every night he finds himself called out to cardiac arrests, drug overdoes, shootings and the strain is all too much to handle.  In his last 12 days, he called in sick 4 times and been late 9 times.  How?  On one particular day he was late but then decided to go home sick.

This is the story of three days in Frank’s life on the road to redemption.  The kickstart to his depression came several months ago when on the job, he failed to save the life of a young lady.  He still hears her voice everyday and his madness continues as her forgiveness is sought.

Martin Scorsese (Kundun, Casino, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver) has a high reputation that must be very difficult to live up to.  The look of New York City he creates through the camera lens is dark and joyless and yet so absorbing at the same time.  It’s funny that in the space of two weeks we’ve seen two very different impressions of New York, in both Bringing Out The Dead and Keeping The Faith, that both work in their own ways.

Nicolas Cage relies heavily on his experiences from filming Leaving Las Vegas, a masterpiece released in 1996.  His performance in this role is mundane in that it resembles everything we’ve seen before from Cage (in film’s such as Vegas and 8MM).  In hindsight, he did play the character well but perhaps a different actor could provide a needed freshness.

With the exception of Patricia Arquette, who was nothing but a bore, the supporting cast came through with all the film’s lightest and finest moments.  John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, Cliff Curtis and Afemo Omilami as Griss are hilarious as they interplay with Cage.

Bringing Out The Dead is a complicated film with a complicated significance.  As funny as some of these situations are, there’s an underlying message that shows just how miserable the world has become.  It’s a tough life as an ambulance attendant and it’s a part of life that has rarely been explored on screen.  As I drove home from this film, an ambulance came flashing past me on the opposite side of the road at half speed.  For once I didn’t think who was in the back of that ambulance but rather who was driving it.