Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Flick of The Day: Bringing Out The Dead

It is easy to forget given the profile of the city is now higher than it has been at any time in the recent past, but there was a time when New York City was a dark hole on the face of humanity. After narrowly avoiding bankruptcy in 1975, the city began a slow decline with shockingly high crime rates and a depressed local economy. This decline was aided and abetted by the rise of crack cocaine in the 80’s. This is the New York City that Martin Scorsese introduces us to in today’s film, Bringing Out The Dead, set in the early ‘90s before Rudy Giuliani came to power and as legend would have it cured the city of all its ills much like St Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. 
With a script from Paul Schrader, reigniting a partnership with Scorsese that has produced Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Indeed, this film explores many of the same themes as Taxi Driver. The City as an open sewer and one man coming to his wits end with the decay around him. In this film, as in Taxi Driver, there is a strong central performance, with Nicolas Cage as Frank Pierce, a burnt out paramedic, haunted by the ghosts of all the people he couldn't save over the years. The film follows him on a three day journey to the dark side, as he works the night shift on the hottest weekend of the summer. 
The film is aided by three fine supporting performances from John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore as Frank’s partners on the 3 nights we follow him. Each has their own way with dealing with the stress and the frustrations of the job. Larry (Goodman) obsesses about food, Marcus (Rhames) is a born again Christian while Tom (Sizemore) just strikes out randomly at those who irritate him. 

This is a dark and at times shocking film, as we see the worst aspects of the City. Frank’s problems stem from the fact that he wades through this on a daily basis. The film moves along at a cracking pace, as Frank falls apart having long since reached his limit. It works best when moving at pace, paralleling the paramedics shift as they go from call to call. When it slows during the daytime, it is less interesting but then the limited downtime is when Frank has a chance to catch his breath. 

Rich in imagery and subtext, this may not be Scorsese at his very best but it is great filmmaking. Check it out!


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