Bringing Out the Dead

Stars:  Nicholas Cage, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore

Movies about the human condition of misery have to be very careful not to be miserable in and of themselves. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out The Dead”, not only is the movie miserable, but it’s also extremely boring.

Nicholas Cage plays Frank Pierce, a paramedic on the streets of New York City in the wee small hours of the night. He sees all kinds of hideous problems from cardiac arrests to suicides, shootings and drug overdoses. The man is a burned out mental case hoping to be fired so that he can somehow cleanse his life of the load of garbage that’s been building up over the past number of months in which every one of his patients has died.

He is particularly haunted by the spirit of Rose, an eighteen year old he was unable to save. He sees her in every person’s face and on every street he drives his ambulance. Frank is a man ready to crack wide open and he gets no sympathy from the three partners he drives with in the film: Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames) and Tom (Tom Sizemore).

His only respite is his connection to Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of a heart attack victim whom he brings to the hospital one night. It’s his one attempt to reach out to the living, except Mary, herself, is borderline, a former drug addict who, although exhibiting great concern for her father’s condition, lacks the character needed to boost Frank out of his pit of horrors. Consequently, Frank is the same hollow shell of a man at the end as he is at the beginning of the film.

Despite the use of tricky, frenetic camera effects and equally frenetic rock music throughout this 2 hour movie, I felt it was at least one hour too long. It was like having to sit through an overly long music video! The only characters who stand out in this film are Ving Rhames and two small character roles, that of a drug dealer and a bitter nurse played by Mary Beth Hurt.

There is some funny and biting dialogue but it’s just not enough to make this film stand out. Dreay New York City, dreary apartments, dreary streets and the absolute worst – dreary characters. I cannot fathom why anyone was attracted to this story. It was based on the novel by Joe Connelly who was himself a paramedic in NYC for about ten years. It might have been an interesting time for him, but not as a member of the audience for this Scorsese borefest.

Lotta says pass on this one. If you’re a Nicholas Cage fan, watch him in anything but this – here he’ll put you to sleep.