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
This film is grossly underappreciated. This represents director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader at their best. They gave us classics like TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, but they've outdone themselves here. Yeah, it's a masterpiece, but one that's not easily accessible.
Nicholas Cage plays Frank an ambulance driver who hasn't saved anyone in months, a man who is feeling guilty and about to break under the weight of the suffering and sorrow he sees in New York City. Scorsese, always working with religious sensibilities, turns this film into a three day descent into the underworld, with Frank being raised to life on the third day, just like Jesus was.
No story to speak of, but then that's the point--the lives of ambulance drivers are largely plotless. It's got the same strengths as other Scorsese classics--visually stunning, uncompromising in its portrayal of the darker side of human nature, and a dead-on portrayal of people at their most desperate. Add to that an almost dreamlike quality that makes the streets of New York look like some metropolitan hell. The thing that sets this film apart, however, is a genuine compassion for its characters. Scorsese's an excellent filmmaker, but he could sometimes be accused of portraying his characters a little coldly. This film is all heart, all the way through. This is the Scorsese of TAXI DRIVER and MEAN STREETS, the Scorsese who takes chances on projects that really mean something, the Scorsese that was missing in GANGS OF NEW YORK.
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