More Ghosts Per Square Feet
Bringing out the Dead
Review by Ross Anthony

Martin Scorsese's newest flick reveals a raw, exposed Nicolas Cage (Frank) as a paramedic on the edge of needing a dose of his own medicine.

With the natural high of saving lives slowly waning, Cage battles the depression of witnessing death after death firsthand. "The nightmares no longer wait for me to sleep," Cage narrates as he rolls through the gritty, drug-infested streets of New York, haunted by their ghosts.

Ironically named, "Her Lady of Mercy" hospital is the physician's version of "Animal House." Patients are "mistreated" to the point of comedy. In one instance a sufferer of a sore foot is placed near a door so that it swings open to bang his bloodied hoof -- twice. In fact, "Bringing out the Dead" itself, is almost a comedy. Poking some fun, then pulling back, it fails to decide; nor does it walk that tricky line between humor and dark drama artfully. What's left is well performed mediocrity.

Cage slowly falls for Mary (Arquette) after racing her cardiac-arrested father to Mercy. This subtle love potential is a second plot line to Cage's own survival. He's plainly teetering on the toxic edge of insanity and rebirth. Though the stories resolve at the end, the climax is diluted by a conflict between the hefty phrase, "The body has to keep going until the heart and mind are healed" and the climax event itself. This leaves one with narrowed eyes.

Supporting cast members Tom Sizemore and Cliff Curtis perform strongly, as do the leads. If you like Martin, you'll no doubt enjoy his sarcastic radio-dispatching.

Two shining moments grace this lukewarm film. In one, Cage's chief threatens to fire him. Cage calls the bluff, "You swore you'd fire me the next time I was late. I'm late now! Fire me!" The chief smiles, "I'll fire you first thing tomorrow -- I promise." The second uniquely special flicker is a ten second scene where Cage and Arquette ride side by side in the back of a rolling ambulance. The rocking vehicle 'causes Arquette to bump her head slightly. She nearly smiles, then the seriousness of their ride reoccurs to her face. Perhaps this sparkling speechless moment was an out-take that Scorsese just had to leave in. Either way, it's but a small dose of adrenaline in a film that could have used a bit more resuscitation.

  • Bringing out the Dead. Copyright © 1999. 120 minutes. Rated R.
  • Starring Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman and Marc Anthony.
  • Screenplay by Paul Schrader (Novel by Joe Connelly).
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese.
  • Produced by Scott Rudin and Barbara De Fina at Touchstone/Paramount.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:19:35 PDT