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Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

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Haunted by the patients he failed to save, an extremely burned-out Manhattan ambulance paramedic fights to maintain his sanity over three fraught and turbulent nights.



(novel), (screenplay)
4,752 ( 84)
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nurse Constance
Cy Coates
Dr. Hazmat
Nurse Crupp
Cynthia Roman ...
Cullen O. Johnson ...
Mr. Burke (as Cullen Oliver Johnson)
Captain Barney (as Arthur Nascarella)


An Easter story. Frank is a Manhattan medic, working graveyard in a two-man ambulance team. He's burned out, exhausted, seeing ghosts, especially a young woman he failed to save six months' before, and no longer able to save people: he brings in the dead. We follow him for three nights, each with a different partner: Larry, who thinks about dinner, Marcus, who looks to Jesus, and Tom, who wallops people when work is slow. Frank befriends the daughter of a heart victim he brings in; she's Mary, an ex-junkie, angry at her father but now hoping he'll live. Frank tries to get fired, tries to quit, and keeps coming back, to work and to Mary, in need of his own rebirth. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From the Director of Taxi Driver See more »


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for gritty violent content, drug use and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 October 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Vidas al límite  »

Box Office


$55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$6,193,052 (USA) (22 October 1999)


$16,640,210 (USA) (7 January 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Nicolas Cage and Patricia Arquette were husband and wife at the time of filming. They would divorce two years later. See more »


The ambulances seen in the film do not have the logo of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation on the cab doors. See more »


Frank Pierce: I gotta get a drink. Sobriety's killing me.
See more »


Featured in The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2010) See more »


Bell Boy
Written by Pete Townshend (as Peter Townshend)
Performed by The Who
Courtesy of RCA Records/Polydor Limited
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
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User Reviews

Urban Jungle
6 May 2003 | by (Iowa City, IA) – See all my reviews

In Bringing Out the Dead, Nicolas Cage plays Frank, a graveyard shift EMT technician in New York City in the early 1990s. In classic Scorsese style, the themes of masculinity, subcultural underground interaction, and fast paced film editing combine to form the frenetic basis of Frank's neo-noir lifestyle. The film is dark, urban, and also blackly comic, relying on strong masculine characters to provide energy and humor.

Overall, Bringing Out the Dead appears to be heavily influenced by film noir. Frank, the protagonist, is at the end of his rope in a rather solitary and stressful job and he often finds escape from the ghosts of his failures through alcohol. Patricia Arquette plays Mary, the femme fatale character and woman in distress Frank seeks to save. The film is uber-urban, set mainly in the nighttime ghettos and hustling districts of New York City, and the major events center around various city dwellers. Frank's adventures in life saving are highlighted by the colorful characters of City life, including prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless persons, insane persons, goth-punk death rockers and the ubiquitous 'Mr. O.,' the smelliest destitute to plague Our Lady of Perpetual Mercy Hospital. Frank is led by Mary into the narcotic underworld, and meets the proprietor of 'The Oasis,' a charismatic dealer with a passion for tropical fish and silk robes.

Many of the lighting techniques also serve to emphasize the urbanality of the surroundings, often combining music and fast paced editing. The darkness of the City night is contrasted with the searing halogen of the hospital, and the sunlight that creeps through the window at dawn mocks Frank's insomnia. Indeed, the movie ends at dawn, with Frank nodding off to sleep. This is very similar to the traditional horror movie ending at dawn when the nighttime monsters are relegated to their nocturnal lairs. Editing techniques are feverish and accelerate in pace as the movie progresses and Frank's hysteria mounts. Many of these sequences involve a montage of the flashing ambulance lights, 360-degree camera rotation, blurred traffic lights and shots of the crazed driver behind the wheel. My personal favorite scene is when Frank is going to answer a call, and the montage is set to R.E.M.'s What's the Frequency Kenneth.

Overall, most of the main characters are the male ambulance drivers/EMTs. These characters, Frank, Tom, Marcus and Larry, exude a kind of unquestioned masculinity, which they prove through various means such as violence, excessive flirting, and alcohol consumption. Tom is a violent, hair trigger macho who enjoys pummeling transients and minorities. Marcus is a smooth talking black man who chain smokes stogies and praises Jesus. Larry is an overweight everyman, wanting to start his own paramedic business. Frank is a Marlboro smoking altruistic cowboy with a drinking problem and insomnia. At some point, most of the characters engage in drinking (liquor) while on duty or at least in the ambulance. The characters names are also quite masculine, especially in contrast to Noel, a man who is a drug addict of ethnic descent that is never arguably fully a man.

Inherently, Scorsese's New York City is an urban jungle that will break any man who is not strong or tough enough.

18 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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