Martin Scorsese comes home to the mean streets of New York with Bringing Out the Dead, the hyperkinetic tale of an ambulance driver (Nicolas Cage) on three sleep-deprived, adrenaline-fueled nights amongst the dead and dying of the city. Less a coherent narrative than a mood piece, the film is a welcome return to form for Scorsese, who takes Joe Connelly's memoir and spins it into a slightly surreal, darkly comic tale of one man's redemption. Frank Pierce (Cage) is a man who feels impotent in his job as an EMT--less a lifesaver, he's more of a grief mop as he sardonically puts it, bearing witness to the pain and suffering of others. Haunted by the specter of a young homeless girl, something stirs in Frank when he meets Mary (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of a heart attack victim Frank attends to. In a world where human interaction usually means putting someone on a stretcher, or bantering frenetically with his coworkers, Frank seems headed for certain physical and nervous collapse. Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader (of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), and cinematographer Robert Richardson put a vivid spin on the New York of the early 90s with amazing visual flair and keen, economical storytelling. The film practically pulses with life, and hits the perfect note of ragged exhaustion. Cage, after a recent career slump, turns in an exceptional performance, by turns manic and weary. In fact, this is one of the best casts ever assembled for a Scorsese film: in addition to the quietly effective Arquette, there are great performances by John Goodman, Ving Rhames, and Tom Sizemore as Cage's ambulance partners, as well as Mary Beth Hurt (as an ER doctor), pop star Marc Anthony (as a drug addict), and especially Cliff Curtis (as a drug dealer who winds up in an unusual scrape). It's not a masterpiece in the vein of Taxi Driver, but Bringing Out the Dead ranks as a stunning Scorsese joyride. --Mark Englehart
Saving someone's life is like falling in love. The best drug in the world. For days, sometimes weeks afterwards, you walk the streets, making infinite whatever you see. Once, for a few weeks, I couldn't feel the earth - everything I touched became lighter. Horns played in my shoes. Flowers fell from my pockets. You wonder if you've become immortal, as if you've saved your own life as well. God has passed through you. Why deny it, that for a moment there - why deny that for a moment there, God was you?
I rebuke the spirit of drugs in the name of Jesus. What's his name?
What you mean I.B. Bangin'?
What the hell kind of name is I.B. Bangin'?
I don't know his real name.
It's Frederick Smith.
Okay, Freddy -
Okay, I.B. Bangin', we're gonna bring you back from the dead.
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