Bringing Out the Dead (Martin Scorsese, 1999)

Look, you’re either going to love or hate Scorsese’s signature style and rapid cuts and all that, and a lot of Bringing Out the Dead is pretty much a nonstop orgy of all of that, and in just about any other movie I’d find it pretentious, but with what this movie’s dealing with, it fits absolutely perfectly.  Obviously in terms of portraying the effect of urban decay on an even more decayed mind it can’t compete with the perfect stylized subtlety of Taxi Driver, but put Taxi Driver on acid and you’ve got one of Scorsese’s most underrated movies in Bringing Out the Dead.  Things like a cigar-chomping holy roller Ving Rhames praying a cokehead back to life, Nicolas Cage hallucinating a dead druggie / personal muse, and an impaled drug dealer hallucinating fireworks against the Manhattan skyline should all come together to create an incoherent mess, and really, that’s exactly what this movie is, but for all the right reasons.  Other than Nic Cage’s little semi-romance with Patricia Arquette and his moral quandary involving the heart attack victim, there’s really no plot to speak of, only the mindset of a burned out paramedic, and really, that couldn’t be portrayed more perfectly than with possibly Scorsese’s most abundant use of hyper-style and situations you know couldn’t possibly happen, but in a world like this, who are we to say what’s possible or not?  Scorsese’s taken that night-in-the-life theme he used in After Hours and here makes it much more visceral, mental, and personal.



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