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Bringing out the dead

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Set in the frantic high stakes world of emergency medical care, Nicolas Cage stars as a paramedic in this intense psychological drama. The story revolves around the struggles experienced by Frank Pierce when he begins to be haunted by the past lives of the patients he did not save. Tthe torturous nature of these visions eventually centres on the spirit of one woman for whose death he feels particularly responsible.

She repeatedly haunts him and eventually manifests herself into the wayward daughter of a man whose life he saved. In depicting this daily life and death struggles, Bringing out the dead weaves a relentless tale of redemption and ultimately romance.

Persons of interest

  • Nicolas Cage .... Frank Pierce
  • Patricia Arquette .... Mary Burke
  • John Goodman .... Larry
  • Ving Rhames .... Marcus
  • Tom Sizemore .... Walls
  • Marc Anthony .... Noel
  • Joe Connelly .... Author
  • Paul Schraeder .... Screenwriter
  • Martin Scorsese .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Ah, the USA. Where else do insane, alcoholic weirdos work as paramedics?

Not only do they work, they're positively begged to stay on the job.


Meanwhile, back to the nitty gritty streets of Hell's Kitchen, New York, Bringing out the dead was a catharsis for Joe Connelly, who worked as an ambo for 10 years. That element of seeking redemption or salvation or just a bit of quiet is what drives everything along. For Frank (Nicholas Cage) it's become an obsession. If you want to make a film about a man obsessed with his own salvation these days it seems you have to cast Nicholas, but he does an acceptable job in a very long flick. At just over two hours it gives you more information than you need. Perhaps that was Martin's intent: to give the audience the same never-ending night-time of the soul that Frank suffers through. No matter, it's just a bit too much Nicholas for my taste.

The parade of offsiders with whom Frank patrols the darkness in search of coffee and blood beggars belief. There is not a normal human being among them. Ambos in Australia tend to be ordinary people doing an extraordinary job. How did so many nutcases end up as paramedics in New York? Maybe it's something about that city, maybe it's something about those times, but it's a mindset I can't get my head around. Don't get me wrong, I love wacko films about wacko people, I just can't see them all working together in such a hard-core profession.

That's enough reality for one review, on to the surreal stuff. There's lots and lots of blood. There's violence. There's pain, anguish, heartbreak, faith, drugs and goldfish. There's not a lot more that you can ask for from a film. The mind-numbing succession of death-filled nights and tortured dawns drag you into Frank's deep, dark well of despair. That would be good but it also disassociates you from Frank's life. You are so sunk in your own funk that you can't care about his.

Every part of Bringing out the dead is competent (the blood especially: it actually looks real) and every actor performs well within the tight confines of their character's particular insanity, but there is something which this film lacks: relevance. Perhaps I am simply too young to be facing this kind of crisis, or perhaps I'm just too spiritually advanced. Whatever, Bringing out the dead didn't quite have the edge needed to be a great film. If you go along and see it you'll appreciate it, for sure, but you might not enjoy it.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Languages: English, German, Hungarian, Spanish
  • Picture: Widescreen 2.35:1/16:9
  • Special features:
    • Featurettes: Production
  • Subtitles: Bulgarian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish

Security censorship classification

R 18+

Surveillance time

121 minutes (2:01 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 25 October 2000
DVD retail: 1 March 2003

Cinema surveillance images

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