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A brilliant film
JRoberts13 November 1999
Bringing out the Dead, unfortunately, has fewer fans than it deserves. Why? Because this isn't simply a "New York" movie, or a movie about a paramedic, or about euthenasia, despite the ostensible setting and plot points.

Instead, Scorsese has created a cinematic myth about how haunted modern existence can be, and what it takes to be "saved" and find grace in a seemingly godless world. His vision of New York is all literate existential comedy, not a window into the rotten Big Apple. Mere satiric commentary on the tragedy of life in New York is for journeyman directors; Scorsese is doing something else entirely here.

In other words, this is that really rare beast--a literate film that is, first and foremost, still a great movie. In the plot and its implications, there's more here of Flannery O Conner or Virginia Woolf than there is here of, say, Tom Wolf. More pariticularly, Bringing out the Dead does with masterful filmmaking what Joyce's The Dead did in prose. This film is a truly eye-opening investigation into how the living exist in the shadow of the dead and dying.

The film accomplishes this incredibly difficult task on many levels--the cinematography alone should give you a clue that this is definitely not Taxi Driver or Goodfellas--there's something more sublime here (the beauty that American Beauty explains wonderfully is shown everywhere in this film, but Bringing out the Dead is less mundane, simple and "character" oriented). Every shot is right, and the numerous computer effects here--on display almost for their own sake in The Matrix--are here poetically put together by a master director.

So, just for it's approach to a subject that few movies or directors would even attempt, this film will be a classic. Oddly enough, one of the few movies it can be compared with is Hitchcock's Vertigo, which confronts the same issues in a different way. Scotty's (Jimmy Stewart) desire to "raise" the dead is as strong as Frank's, and audiences didn't much like Vertigo when it was released either.

The acting, the music, the incredible photography--they're all great, if you realize you are watching a literate, funny, well-plotted (as opposed to simply plotted) meditation on the ghosts that increasingly inhabit our technocratic dwellings.

Too good for a grade: see it on the biggest, best screen you can while you can. BTW--it's better the second time.
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Hard To Watch, But Worth It
Gene Hoke5 January 2000
Frank Pierce is at the end of his rope. As portrayed by Nicolas Cage in Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out The Dead", he is a burned out, alcoholic, insomniac New York City ambulance driver tormented by the ghosts of those he failed to save -- specifically, the ghost of Rose, a young, asthmatic woman he couldn't "bring back". The movie is basically a snapshot of Frank's life -- three days of hell as seen from his vantage point : a speeding ambulance by which a blurred, uncertain, frightening, and often oppressive world flies.

Frank tells us at the movie's outset that he hasn't saved a life in months, and that he's beginning to believe in things like spirits that leave a body and don't want to come back. He's starting to feel like a "grief mop", like his only real responsibility is to "bear witness" to death and suffering. Frank and his partner Larry (John Goodman) are attempting to resuscitate a heart attack victim as the movie begins, and as the man's daughter Mary (Patricia Arquette) looks on in horror, Larry is successful in pulling him back from death's door. The overrun hospital, however, shoves him into a corner and keeps him drugged up, shocking him back to "life" when necessary. Mary tells Frank she hadn't spoken to her father for a long while before his attack, and in fact had often wished he were dead, but that now there's nothing she'd like more that to just hear his voice again. She was once a junkie but has now been clean for months, she tells him. Frank seems moved by Mary, seems to want to "save" her -- perhaps he thinks if he can save her, he will be able to let go of the pain of losing Rose.

Frank's developing feelings for Mary provide a counterpoint to the insanity he encounters on emergency calls with his partners Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames), and Walls (Tom Sizemore). Sometimes the calls involve merely picking up the local smelly drunk Mr. O, their "most frequent flier" who seems to think the hospital is a nice place to sober up. Other times they involve matters that are much more serious, like resuscitating a heroin OD in a club (a great scene) or assisting in the allegedly virgin birth of twins (haunting, and one of the movie's many examples of religious imagery). But no matter where Frank goes, he sees Roses' face -- he sees her everywhere, she comes to him in the guise of the nameless street people that cross his path.

There really is no plot to "Bringing Out The Dead", and that's a good thing because the movie isn't meant to be a straightforward narrative. It's meant to be a snapshot of a man's soul, of his inner demons, and a conventional plot would only cloud the movie's real point. The narrative thrust comes mostly from Frank's interactions with his partners -- each of them representing a different approach, a different way of dealing with the pain brought on by this nerve wracking job. Larry (Goodman) seems to be able to block out the emotional aspects of his job, he seems to see his position mainly as a means to an end, and in fact he tells Frank he'll be a captain one day. Marcus (Ving Rhames, in a scene stealing performance) puts all trust and faith in God, believing that if someone dies, it's just their time to go. Walls (a scarily effective Tom Sizemore) is a borderline psychotic, terrorizing patients (including dread locked street person Noel, well played by singer Mark Anthony) and bashing in his ambulance headlights with a baseball bat.

If these three provide the kinetic thrust of the movie, Frank and Mary provide it's emotional center. Frank finds himself drawn closer and closer to Mary, and in fact he tries to rescue her when she resorts to visiting scummy drug dealer Cy Coates (the excellent Cliff Curtis) at the Oasis, a scarily shot urban hellhole that seems to be a local haven for drug dealing. She needs some respite, however temporary and narcotic, from the pain, and in this sense she has a link with Frank (who drinks on the job and taps into his own medical supplies to get high). The movie seems to be saying that these two people need each other; perhaps each has what is needed to soothe the other's hurt.

"Bringing Out The Dead" is the fourth collaboration between Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader, and it touches on their familiar themes of faith, guilt, hope, and redemption. Much has been written about the similarities between this film and "Taxi Driver", Scorsese's 1976 ode to urban rot. I feel these similarities are somewhat superficial. Though Frank and Travis Bickle are both lonely, disenfranchised, ill people, Frank wants to help people; Bickle just wants to clean the "trash" up off the streets. Bickle lashes out in rage; Frank lashes out in fear and desperation. Schrader's screenplay offers satisfying levels of complexity, so that ultimately, towards the end, when Frank does something totally unexpected and morally ambiguous, we understand exactly why he's doing it and can sympathize.

Of course, from a technical standpoint "Bringing Out The Dead" is flawless. Ace lensman Robert Richardson (who previously worked with Scorsese on "Casino") gives the city an appropriately gloomy, sick look, and his work is especially effective in a scene in which Cy dangles from a sixteenth floor balcony while fireworks explode behind him. Thelma Schoonmaker's expert editing is, as usual, outstanding -- she gives the fast paced scenes the charge they need, and provides some dizzying sped up camera effects during the emergency call scenes. Scorsese's choice of music is great, as is his work with the actors. Sizemore, Anthony, Curtis, Arquette, and especially Rhames are all good, but it's Cage who must hold the movie together, and he succeeds with a towering performance that is easily his best work since "Leaving Las Vegas". Cage is cast perfectly here; his tortured, implosive Frank Pierce is an indelible character.

"Bringing Out The Dead" is not for everyone. The movie's lack of a conventional narrative arc will probably confuse and alienate some viewers, and the way it uncompromisingly looks into the darkest corners of human nature with an unflinching eye will disturb others. Yet these qualities are Scorsese's hallmarks, and this film has links to many of his other works -- the confusion of "After Hours", the emotional indecision of "The Age of Innocence", the alienation of "Taxi Driver", the spiritual search of "The Last Temptation of Christ". "Bringing Out The Dead" is not easy to watch, and at times it's hard not to look away. But it's real, and it stays with you.
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A very under looked film
ollie1939-97-95799411 February 2012
Bringing out the Dead is the most underrated film ever done by Martin Scorsese. It is one of the most well made films I've ever seen and is one of my favorite dramas of all time.

The film focuses on a paramedic called Frank played by Nicolas Cage. The film focuses on 48 hours of Frank's life as a paramedic and all the horrific things he has seen. As well as that Frank is also haunted by spirits of people who he couldn't save, befriends a young women called Mary played by Patricia Arquette and a whole range of strange partners.

The actors that Scorsese has chosen are a weird bunch as they're not really in Scorsese's other films and they're not really big name actors. As well as Nicolas Cage there's also supporting roles from people like John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Siezmore. Everyone does a fantastic jobs even the actors who have much smaller roles than others.

This is much more surreal film than most other Scorsese films as we go into Frank's mind.

The reasons why this films succeeds is just that you really care about this characters and while the film dosen't really have much of a story it grips you the whole way through.

It also has a great soundtrack which includes artists like Van Morrison, R.E.M and the Who.

Overall the film is quite different to what you're usually expecting but it grips who the whole way though and it gets a full 5 star rating form me.
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Excellent movie
dmwaves20004 November 2005
As an emergency physician and film buff, this film is one of my favorites. Martin Scorcese utilized excellent film technique with his inventive camera shots integrated with a dark comedic plot (check out the triage nurse) to create a bright modern cinema masterpiece with rich characters, comedic irony, and a sense of perseverance against overwhelming angst and the dark underbelly of modern urban life. This film is a classic on a par with Harold and Maude, and the King of Hearts. Three thumbs up- (I'm dysmorphic)... In any case, this movie deserves to be watched by anyone involved in healthcare and anyone involved in EMS activities.
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Bringing Out the Dead is another Scorsese Masterpiece
Joe Moretti1 December 1999
Director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Shrader, these two names alone stand for excellence and brilliance, put them together and you havebrilliant film making history as witnessed by their former collaborations ("Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" and "The Last Temptation of Christ"). Add the totally compelling and very real "Bringing Out the Dead" to that list. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, a former EMS worker, "Bringing Out the Dead" follows three long nights in the life of New York City paramedic Frank Pierce (Nicholas Cage) as he navigates through the life and death situations of the last era of the "mean streets" of New York City, the early 90's, all the while attempting to hold on to his sanity by a thread.

Scorsese creates a very real New York (before the gentrification of the Giuliani era) that is rarely seen in films. This is not the flashy and glitzy New York that is often shown in most movies. He goes deep into the psyche of a city that is crammed with 9 million people, some who are struggling just to stay afloat. As the character Mary says, "You have to be strong to survive in this city." Some of the scenes in the movie are so memorable and haunting such as Frank's hallucination of actually pulling people literally from the steam shrouded pavement and bringing them back to life and the harrowing, almost Christ-like sequence where Frank is saving a drug dealer from death as he dangles from a balcony.

Nicholas Cage, one of our finest actors working today, gives a brilliant performance of great emotional range that is draining to watch. You literally see him coming unglued piece by piece. This is his best performance since "Leaving Las Vegas". Patricia Arquette (Cage's wife) gives a very moving and subtle performance of a person who has been to hell and back while struggling to maintain some balance in the jungle. Goodman, Rhames and Sizemore turn out good performances as always playing Cage's co-pilots in the nightly journeys. Also standing out are Latin singer, Marc Anthony as a homeless crazy and Cliff Curtis as a drug dealer who provides an "oasis" for the stressed-out individuals of the city. An excellent director and a great script are a perfect formula for producing top-notch performances by actors and Scorsese and Shrader bring out the best in theirs.

With it's story of the lead character Frank cruising the streets making narrative comments about life in the city, comparisons will be made naturally to Scorsese's other brilliant work "Taxi Driver" with it's main character Travis Bickle, but those comparisons are normal and stop right there. Where Travis Bickle wanted to save people who did not need saving, Frank Pierce reaches out to people who desperately need saving, but does not always have the power to save as in the case of the homeless girl Maria, who haunts him constantly. Also Scorsese is too highly intelligent, creative and the ultimate professional to retread the same waters, he never takes the easy road. A Scorsese film is like any great film, it takes time to take it in and digest, because there are so many different layers added that need to be looked at long after the last reel finishes. This is a powerful piece of filmmaking proving once again that Martin Scorsese is one of the all-time great directors of this century. Highly Recommended. × × ××
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One of the boldest movies of the year. ***1/2 out of ****
Movie-1224 November 1999

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, Cliff Curtis Director: Martin Scorsese Running time: 120 minutes Rated R (for gritty violent content, language, and drug use)

By Blake French:

Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out The Dead" is one of the only movies I have ever seen that does not remotely glamorize its subject matter. That is something that does not come naturally in the world of film. Movies glamorize almost everything they face matters with; whether it's violence, drugs, sex, or other behaviors. Movies persuade, advertise, and sell incorrect messages to hungry and excepting pedestrians. Not only is "Bringing Out The Dead" an anti-violence, drugs and glamour film, it also manages to deliver its message through one of the most talented actors in Hollywood clearly and understandably. This is one of the year's most unsettling and uncompromising productions, and also one of the year's best.

"Bringing Out the Dead" offers no story in its existence. But there is no actual need for a plot here, due to a strong, precise narrative through-line and focused point of view seen through its central character. He is Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), who narrates the film with a sense of depravity. He and his buddies, Marcus (Ving Rhames), Tom (Tom Sizemore), and Larry (John Goodman), work the evening shift at New York's Hell's Kitchen as Ambulance Drivers for an emergency hospital. They live a life full of stress, sweat, and desperation. Frank often comes to work pleading for his boss to fire him. The opening scene, which properly induces the desperate and gritty lives of the main characters, features Frank and Larry, being called to the home of Mary Burke, whose unhealthy father is having a heart attack. They stabilize him, rush the man to their emergency care facility, and go on with their lives.

Now, where many "lesser" movies would have developed a romantic subplot with the Mary character and Frank, "Bringing Out the Dead" is too focused and skillful to do that. There is affection between the two. But Frank is in such a position in his life that he just isn't prone to fall for a woman. Nor does he give in to any of the many hookers standing on the street blocks tempting him to keep them in business. He is on the verge of an nervous break down, and the film never pretends otherwise.

While for the most part, this movie didn't give into any major distractions or side-subjects, it did have several flawed and unexplained subplots. The story featuring Frank constantly being haunted by the ghost of a young girl he lost some time ago isn't really explained enough. Nor does an unusually bizarre scene later on payoff featuring Frank saving lost souls in pain beneath the streets of New York. And there seems to be an extremely dangerous drug featured in the movie, which strangely appears at the overdoes scenes where Frank is called to--this isn't detailed enough to pay off either. I do realize the purpose of us not knowing about this medical issue; we don't have the knowledge because Frank doesn't. But I still think there may have been a way to inform the audience on the context of this material, without making the hero look stupid. Also, the film is over narrated by Frank, who sometimes describes his interesting past experiences through words, not flashbacks or visions, which would have been much more intriguing.

Scorsese makes no sense of the chaotic, unorganized, unsettling medical experiences patients go through in the emergency room where Frank doctors in. The style he uses to depict the film in is flawless in this justification: the camera angles are mind-warping and fast paced, the atmosphere of the movie is gritty, with blood and vulgarism abound. The characters pace frantically as they travel across one end of the building to the next, not sure to where or whom they are going. The characters also are injected with a deep sense of lifeless scrounge, as they stare and gaze into each other's eyes, only to discover there is nothing in each other. In some aspects, this film is like "Saving Private Ryan": a tantalizing hell.

And Nicolas Cage delivers yet another fascinating performance here. His character is empathized with the entire way through, even if narration is used instead of illusion. He manages to depict his character through the torment and emotional damnation required. He pursues profoundness in scenes where his character realizes happiness in itself. "I fell like I saved someone," mutters Frank to himself. Good job, Frank. You saved yourself.

Brought to you by Paramount Pictures and Touchstone Pictures.
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Stylish, but lacking a certain something
bowmanblue23 December 2017
Sometimes you can watch a film and see that all the pieces are there and yet there's still something not quite right about it. 'Bringing Out the Dead' stars Nicholas Cage (while he was still highly-bankable at the Box Office) as a New York ambulance driver who's on the brink of burning out completely. He's seemingly lost the ability to sleep (properly) and turned to various substances to get himself through his - increasingly dangerous - nightshifts.

Now, back in 1999 when this film was released, Cage was pretty much at the top of his game and you could guarantee that he'd put in a good performance, especially under an equally great director. Here we have none other than Martin Scorsese at the helm who is more than capable at keeping hold of Cage's reigns and making sure he doesn't do that 'over the topness' he sometimes slips into. The premise is great and there's plenty of scope for the story and characters to evolve. The films sports an equally impressive supporting cast including Patricia Arquette, Ving Rhames and John Goodman. So, baring all that in mind, it's hard to see that anything could go wrong with it.

I certainly don't hate 'Bringing Out the Dead.' I just feel that with that much talent at its disposal it should be a lot better than it is. The actors and direction are amazing, but where it falls down is a general lack of focus as to where the story is going and what genre the film wants to be. It flips from everything from romantic comedy to gritty drama almost every other scene and even flirts with the possibility of a supernatural element (loosely). There's not an awful lot of motivation for the supporting cast and they just seem to do things to provide Cage with something bad/dramatic to react to. The films plays out like a string of sketches/mini episodes that are loosely strung together by the flimsy of narratives.

If you're a fan of Cage and/or Scorsese, this is a 'must watch.' However, some may get a little tired with waiting for something to happen.
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Powerful and engrossing cinema from a truly great team.
hitchcockthelegend4 October 2008
Frank Pierce is a member of the Nork York paramedics, serving the Hell's Kitchen district he is witness to some terrible incidents. As he starts to crack under the pressure of the job, and getting no help from a succession of zany partners, Frank may just find solace with an ex-junkie girl who's father he brought in dying of a heart attack.

Martin Scorsese can never be accused of not being adventurous, after dabbling in Eastern spiritualism with 1997s Kundun, he returns to New York and tackles a wing of America's tortured heroes. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, Bringing Out The Dead is at times a difficult watch in many ways, but it's haunting poignancy is told with brilliantly adroit ease from one of America's famed directors, whilst it has to be said that the humour that is in there is darkly genius in its execution. We are along for the ride with haunted Frank for three days (and nights) as he and his borderline bonkers partners deal with overdoses, heart attacks, drunks and a notably cynical virgin birth! As Frank starts to see ghosts of people he couldn't save in the past, Scorsese and his team treat us to an adrenalin fuelled nightmare, the editing (Thelma Schoonmaker) is swift and explosive like, Robert Richardson's cinematography framing certain aspects of this journey with impacting deftness, and then we have the soundtrack.

Scorsese is always a man who takes great care in sound tracking his movies, in fact few modern day directors can touch his knack for a perfect soundtrack. Fusing Motown with 70s Punk Rock would seem an odd combination, but all of it works as the paramedics start to feel the strain and (in some cases) as the mania takes hold. It's rare to hear a New York Dolls track in a movie, to hear a Johnny Thunders solo track is as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian, and here the use of Thunders' You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory is pitch perfect, impacting so. Such is the use of early Clash standards as our protagonists feed off each others precarious mental conditions, it's a soundtrack to savour basically.

Nicholas Cage plays Frank Pierce, and it's a great performance full of restraint and honesty, it's the sort of performance that his detractors tend to forget about such is its emotive simplicity. Tom Sizemore (wonderfully manic), Ving Rhames, John Goodman and Patricia Arquette fill out the cast and all do fine work, but I'm sure they would be the first to acknowledge the excellence of Paul Schrader's screenplay. This piece is far from being a masterpiece, but with it's intensity sitting side by side with a paramedics need for coping, it's clear that Scorsese and his talented team have made one of the most astute and undervalued pieces of the 90s. 9/10
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probably one of Scorsese's best
ndrwdyng7113 August 2003
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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Urban Jungle
Abogenrief6 May 2003
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.
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A True Masterpiece. One of Scorcese's Most Underrated Films.
qbqb200528 June 2007
It's no Goodfellas. It's no Raging Bull. And it's no Taxi Driver. It's Bringing Out the Dead.

This film is an INCREDIBLE visual piece. Just as Michael Mann is to the Nightlife in LA, Scorcese has New York nailed down pat. The film is an unbelievable take on the individual. Films about the individual is what Scorcese masters, and it's films like this that'll immortalize Scorcese forever. Fine, Nic Cage is no DeNiro nor Keital; however, that's what makes this film so great. I actually think Cage's performance in this film was BETTER than Leaving Las Vegas. This was Scorcese playing the role of the psychologist as he examines the psychosis of a man on the edge of life. I'll admit it that the story was thin; however, the underlying theme of loneliness and how two people come together (even though I still feel the ending was very similar to Wong's Fallen Angels) under the trance the legends Bobby Richardson's STUNNING camera work and Schoonmaker's beautiful cuts makes this film a complete stunner.

I still feel that the Last Temptation was Scorcese's best work; however, I really feel this film deserves A lot more credit than what it gets. A definite must see for any film enthusiast, any filmmaker, any scorcese fan, and for anyone ho just wants to experience film-making at it's best, from today's best.
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Ambulance blues.
dbdumonteil9 January 2003
Martin Scorcese's heroes have always been some of kind of Christs:"Taxi driver" is the most prominent example,but the boxer in "raging bull" is another one.It was downright embarrassing he totally missed the point when he made his "last temptation"

Nicholas Cage is another modern Christ (check the poster),and the last picture leaves no doubt about it when he and Patricia Arquette look like a pieta.More a chronicle than a real story,this is a two-hour wandering through the deepest worlds of human despair.the hero experiments helplessness,culpability and remorse.His "victims" ,so to speak,come back to haunt him and he's gradually slipping into madness.It's hard to be a saint in the city .

As always in Scorcese's movies ,the soundtrack is particularly good ,including REM's "what' s the frequency Kenneth?" and 10,000 Maniacs'"these are days"(from an album called "our time in eden"!).The cinematography is often dazzling when the ambulance goes thru the neons at night.Nevertheless,if you're feeling down-in-the-mouth,avoid.
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One of Scorsese's weakest films...
slug-125 August 1999
I was able to see the new Martin Scorsese film, "Bringing out the Dead", at a screening on 19th street on August 3rd. (I've supplied this info so that you'll know this review is for real).

Scorsese's new flick is a meandering, plotless film, completely unsure of itself from start to finish. The story is centered around a troubled paramedic (Nic Cage) who's haunted by the ghosts of those he's lost on the job and is, it seems, on the verge of a complete nervous brokedown.

That's the story. At times, "Dead" is quite funny, using a dark-comedy-like strength to carry the picture. But Scorsese's film implodes in its attempts to be compelling. Partly due to Nicolas Cage's dull and lifeless performance, and partly because of Pat Arquette's underwritten and underacted one.

The breathe of fresh air in this fog-filled flick is Ving Rhames, who exudes energy. When he's on screen, the hunger for greatness is gone, but when he's off screen, you're drooling for more. Scorsese gets over-stylish, making his film seem more like a music video and less like the Martin Scorsese that has made some of the finest films of this century. Grade : D+
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An ordinary paramedic?
Gritty Kitty27 October 1999
An ordinary paramedic? Naw! Did you see the way Cage is lit? Did you see the closing scene with Patricia Arquette? Did you see the 'virgin' birth? The parallels to Christianity are wonderful.

This is an excellent film--visually eye-catching and beautiful: even the 'grotesque' can be beautiful. It demands a little thought on the part of the audience, but it's fun--it's a ride to enjoy. Cage is perfect (it's good to see him as himself and not some pseudo-action figure of Hollywood's creation).

The cinematography was good, the editing too. I loved it!
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A movie about paramedics that will make you sick
racerx-922 October 1999
Um, why was this movie made? Where was it going? What was the point? Was there a plot or a story? These are just some of the questions an audience member will ask him/herself after surviving this movie. There's no need to go see this movie. If you dig hospital/paramedic drama, stay home and watch E.R., or something. Or maybe go to a hospital and see it all happen live.
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Much much better & more dangerous than reviewers know...
vincent.eaton-220 May 2000
Like a version of Hieronymus Bosch, visions of hell. But with so many involuntary laughs in the midst of the chaos and horror. By the time this film got over to Europe, it was clear the Americans don't know what to do with or think of their top director's latest. But that's what make's Martin S. the top -- he's moving faster than the mass can follow.
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Dark,mendacious,disturbing,harrowing world of Scorsese's America.
HiddenVoice19 October 2006
One can't say enough of this man.And finally having both Scorsese and Schrader collaborate again,you should expect a lot.Scorsese's America is always a dystopian,dead America.Where the streets are filled with urban decay.Where people are looking for light,redemption,looking for a way to get out.And no one knows America better than Scorsese.He knows every street of every city.He knows how to command the lights and cameras to make the roads look perfect.

A paramedic is on the verge of killing himself.He's tired,worn out,half-dead,he's dying each and everyday,trying to stay alive.He's desperate to quit his job,and give up.He wants to go to sleep but can't.Something worse is yet to happen to him.For six months,he's been bringing in the dead.Not a single soul did he save,and he can't go on.He sees ghosts coming to haunt him.He sees all those dead he couldn't save coming after him,especially a girl whom he failed to save and she blames him.And we get deeper into his harrowing life as a paramedic in a dead city for the next three days.Three partners,three nights,all dead people coming in the hospital.He is sucked in by this job and this city.He would consider himself the luckiest man on the planet,if he could save just one person .Not even a baby lives through his hands.What's the worse can one ask for?Worse yet,he gets too close to a patients daughter who seems to have disconnected herself with life.All this and more sums up what a life a paramedic lives.

There's never been a proper,focused film about the lives of paramedics.We never know how they feel when they have to get someone injured or near death to a hospital.We never see how they react psychologically and physically when they deliver the dead.What they go through.How disturbed they get.Well,this is one movie you need to watch to believe.

One of my all time favorite actors and among the best,Nicholas Cage never lets you down.He's done many kinds of films and roles,and he's been perfect at all of them.His versatility as an actor needs to be admired and followed.And here,he only proves what a powerful actor he truly is.Tom Sizemore,Ving Rhames,John Goodman,Marc Anthony,and Arquette are all effective and memorable.Especially the psychotic idiot character Anthony plays and Rhames Jesus-loving driver.

This film is filled with disturbing,dark content throughout.You really get this disgusting feeling when you see the city's decay.You feel horrified to see what these paramedics have to go through,and how they are affected by the situations psychologically.And it just doesn't get any more disturbing than this.This film has a close resemblance to the world of The Taxi Driver.Hell's Kitchen has never been this hellish.

And you feel it through Scorsese's camera work,his command of lights and angles.You would never see a city in a way Scorsese would show you.His America is always the most different.It always feels the most different,and looks unique.He really shows his mastery in this film.It's a true piece of art,and he makes it very entertaining.He's got a unique vision.He manages to eliminate the scripts flaws and really proves that a master is always a master,an experienced director always knows the best.I would love to see more collaborations of Schrader's and his.He's really proved he's a true genius,and wonder why they didn't give him a nomination for his work.

The cinematography is stunning.It explores the city and creates a weird,fascinating world of its own.It's got pitch-perfect editing.It's a remarkable piece of modern film-making from Scorsese,and Schrader's script is terrific.Although,the film drags and sometimes has no clue what it's doing.It sometimes goes clueless and just plays around.But you feel the effect of its dark subject.And of course,it features a grand soundtrack.

A funny but really dark and striking black comedy.Filled with moments of wit and genius.An original piece of work.Definitely Scorsese's most under-appreciated.

****/5 B+
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Brilliant film with paramedics and urban jungle, a crazy ride
KineticSeoul12 October 2010
I just love it when Nicholas Cage takes on these types of roles, where he plays a slightly crazy to full crazy characters. Ving Rhames also puts on a pretty entertaining performance and I really enjoyed these characters dialogues. In fact I liked almost every exchange of dialogue in this movie. Okay the plot is about Frank Pierce(Nicholas Cage) who is a paramedic that tries to help people in the street of Manhattan. He gets some pleasure out of his job, but for the most part it's like a living hell for him. Now I haven't really experienced the lifestyle in the early 90's, but it seems pretty crazy and obnoxious how the movie portrays it. Especially inside the hospitals, I never seen a hospital that crazy and hectic. The way New York is shown in the early 90's is pretty gritty with a lot of people trying to stay afloat. Scorsese has made some brilliant films in the past and I really enjoyed this movie as well. Nicholas Cage was the perfect actor for this role and the way he cruises the streets in a ambulance while making narrative about the city life was entertaining although somewhat random at times. This is a film making done very well and powerful as well. Engaging movie with some great and entertaining performances. I especially liked the dark serious humor in this. Highly recommend anyone to see it.

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Good once it finds its rhythm
SKG-225 October 1999
After reading the novel by Joe Connelly this movie is based on(by the way, the title is a reference to MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL), it seemed a perfect fit for director Martin Scorsese, writer Paul Schraeder, and star Nicolas Cage. After all, this is the mean streets of New York, this is about trying to find salvation and redemption in the pits of despair, and it features a character on the edge. But when things start out, I was disappointed. It seems like all three of them, Scorsese, Schraeder, and Cage, were straining to get the effect of the novel, and it felt disjointed. The narration by Cage seems to be covering up for what's not being shown, which always means trouble.

In lesser hands, this might have been a problem. However, Scorsese has the craft to match his passion, and he soon finds the rhythm. The narration is used less and less as the movie goes on, and Cage is gradually able to show his grief, rather than just talk about it. We still don't feel the impact of the story as much as we do in the novel, but we do feel something, thanks to Cage and Patricia Arquette(as the daughter of a patient he saves). Once it gets going, the black humor, courtesy of Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore as fellow paramedics and Scorsese and Queen Latifah as dispatchers, helps fuel the picture as well. This isn't quite as good as Scorsese's other New York stories, but it is a worthy addition to his canon.
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Narrative-wise it is unsatisfying but it has style and pace that makes it worth seeing
bob the moo31 May 2004
Frank Pierce is a New York City paramedic. We join his story when he is facing down a double shift of graveyard work despite being burnt out and tired he battles through. Facing the ghosts of those he has lost on the job, Frank tries to help the usual junkies and heart failures but gets involved with Mary when he gets called to her father's heart attack. Despite his tiredness, he tries to help Mary's more emotional pain.

My plot summary for this film is weak, I know that. However it is not weak because I am in a rush, it is weak because the film's narrative is also weak. The basic set up is interesting and this carries the film for the first hour but after this the film tries to settle into more of a story then it falls to bits. For the first half of the film the action is carried by it's visual style and it's pace – it is effortless to watch and is very slick and interesting. Indeed whenever the film stays away from it's story with Mary and focuses on style then it is most enjoyable. It may be very episodic during it's stylish tour of those in need of help but it's is enjoyable nonetheless. However when the film tries to follow a thread with Mary it becomes dull and you realize that this may have style in bucket loads but the substance was given out using an eggcup. For this reason I found it ultimately unsatisfying despite being worth a watch for Scorsese at work.

As a director he really pulls out the stops, it looks great and is visually never dull even if it's narrative is. The soundtrack is also very good even if it could easily be accused of excess in the same way as the visuals could be. Even though this is Scorsese's film, the cast still do OK if not great.

Cage is convincingly washed out for the duration even if isn't as good a character as he hoped. Arquette is not quite as bad as I've seen her but she is still quite poor here. She isn't great and it is partly her fault but also the fault of the material – after all she is given the poor narrative to carry. Goodman has presence if not much to do while Rhames and Sizemore really enjoy their OTT characters. Anthony and Turturro add to the film in minor roles (Anthony being especially good) but I didn't feel like Curtis worked in his role even if he was another well-known face and I was amused by Reyes in a pre-Scrubs medical role.

Overall this is a film that is all about the ride and, for that, it's worth seeing. I enjoyed it's energy, it's pace and it's style in terms of visuals and music, however the narrative is episodic at best and weak for the rest of the time. The best performances are mostly OTT, befitting the excessive mood set by Scorsese's direction but as enjoyable as it is on a stylish, pacey level it isn't satisfying as a total film or as a story.
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Lively, Polished Rawness, not a Masterpiece Though
tedg26 November 2000
After getting established, directors run out of their own bank of ideas. They cast about for something new and interesting -- and/or they become craft for hire. The former has more integrity,

So when a book with real gas appears, Hollywood jumps on it.

The good here is that there is some strange atmosphere here to be mined, and Scorcese does well enough. The surprise here is that Cage fits the recipe: he's usually too obvious an actor. But here his externality works to emphasize the character's rawness. Plus his partners are more internal in contrast.

The bad. Scorcese should know better how to adapt for cinema. There's some nice work here, like the three quick flashes of the daughter in the waiting room. Like the shots of the ambulance going down the road. But it is grafted on to a written narrative, and all the really good images are from voiceovers.

I have conflicting feelings about the common use of songs. It seems like a cheap shot if the visual values aren't strong. On the other hand, Van Morrison is used so effectively I'm truly impressed.
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Nick Cage At His Best, Again!
Crannicus_Maximus3 September 2006

Bringing Out the Dead is one of the finest pieces of cinematic art I have seen from Scorcese. Featuring an outstanding cast (especially Cage) and a rather quirky, fun story, the film follows the adventures of a paramedic.

Offering both a chilling (and, in some ways, twistedly humorous) look into the everyday happenings for a paramedic on the job, and some interesting (and again, twisted) mind work, the film focuses on Nick Cage's struggles to come to terms with what he lives through day by day, as well as the struggles of his colleagues.

Kudos goes also to the cinematographer, who pieced together an amazing visual experience to accompany the outstanding script and acting.

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BlueOrgy15 September 2000
I remember seeing the preview for this movie when it came out last year. I wanted to see it but I never got around to it and it kinda faded out of existense. But than it came out on video and I definatly had to see it. I figured the movie had Nicolas Cage in it, so it had to be pretty good. The story seemed really good and it even compelled me to read the book.

Bringing Out The Dead tells a story of a burnt out paramedic who works in Hell's Kitchen. It's tells 48 hours of Frank Pierce's (Cage) life. It goes from drug use, ghosts, cardiac arrests, and men being impaled with metal rods. The movie sticks pretty close to the book which is very unusual. The only thing that the movie left out (which fed a lot of Frank's suffering) was the history of him and his wife. Well I guess you will just have to see the movie and read the book.

Rated R for some language, violence, and a scene of drug use.
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This was simply amazing.
docsmith-23 June 2000
As a physician who has worked the ER more times than I can count, I was impressed by the accuracy of the action at "Perpetual Mercy". The film captured the TRUE essence of emergency medicine (boredom, futility, and often misanthropy) on a scale so far removed from that horrendous television show, "E.R.", that one wonders why the producer of that show isn't forced to sit down with the "Bringing Out the Dead" DVD for a couple of dozen screenings and take notes. The film itself is dazzling. So complete in its development of the REAL motivation for "saving lives", that I wonder who the physician was that helped Joe Connelly write the original novel. The performances are tight, the writing concise, the music an asset (for a change), and Martin Scorsese once again demonstrate why he is the greatest living filmmaker. The lay public will probably see the film as somewhat of a caricature. The truly amazing thing (and certainly the most unnerving) is how dead-on it is.
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Interesting Insanity
Overall opinion:

This movie gives you the chance to see how awful a man's job in the big city can really be. I was both amazed by the films acting involvement by everyone and how deep the plot could really go before something totally insane happened suddenly. Seeing Nicolas Cage in such a "zombied" manner like this really is quite disturbing but I did somewhat enjoy this movie.

Plus and minus Material (What I liked, what I didn't):

+Great acting by Nicolas Cage

-Certain events and scenes seemed out of place and not important

-It probably will make you feel pretty sick

+This is the first Scorsese film I've seen and I'm very pleased with his interesting and somewhat different style of directing

!Probably the second most darkest movie I've ever seen
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