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Bringing Out the Dead

If Bringing Out the Dead had been the debut film of, say, Quentin Tarantino, it would have been heralded by reviewers as the start of a brilliant career. But instead it was the 34th film by Martin Scorsese. As such, it was deemed a comedown, another deflection from the true trajectory of Scorsese's career toward that ultimate iconic gangster film to end all gangster films. We demand more from a Scorsese film, and if Dead failed to tickle the critics, it really failed to draw audiences with a disatrous $16 million theatrical run. No matter — Dead is alive with emotion, action, comedy, and passion. It's one of Scorsese's best films in years, and he derives such an outstanding performance from Nicolas Cage that it's possible to forsee a long-term collaboration between the two of them to rival Scorsese's association with Robert De Niro. Based on an autobiographical novel by Joe Connelly, the film comprises a delineated few days in the life of a EMS medic named Frank Pierce (Cage), who spent his early childhood in the very neighborhood of New York City where he now cruises for bruises and much worse. He is joined by Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames), and Tom (Tom Sizemore). Meanwhile, Pierce has fallen for Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of a heart-attack victim whose life he has prolonged, following her around the city when he is off duty. And throughout all this, the haunted Cage sees the ghost of Rose (Cynthia Roman), a pregnant girl he failed to save one night. Pierce is seeking redemption or peace, and though there isn't a lot of suspense as to whether he is going to find it, the trip is powerful. This is one of the richest stories that Scorsese has brought to the screen in years, abundant in incident and subtle in nuance. Good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), DD 5.1. Short interview documentary with Scorsese, Connelly, and Cage, two trailers. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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