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Friday, October 22, 1999
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Volume 65, Issue 44


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Bringing Out the Dead brings out the best in Cage, Arquette, Rhames


Bringing Out the Dead

Starring: Nicholas Cage,
Patricia Arquette and Ving Rhames
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rating: R

Grade: A- 


By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff 

Even if Bringing Out the Dead is not director Martin Scorsese's best film, it's still entertaining. 

Bringing Out the Dead is not a sequel to Taxi Driver, but it shares many similarities with Scorsese's and screenwriter Paul Schrader's successful film. 

The main characters of both films, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver) and Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage, Bringing Out the Dead) have terrible, low-paying jobs that no one in their right mind would like to have. The taxi driver and the EMS technician burn out because they find it difficult to cope anymore with their jobs and the tough streets of New York City. 

Nicholas Cage's Pierce never goes on a killing crusade, like Bickle does in Taxi Driver. Still, Pierce is on the edge of madness. Most of the calls he receives are frequently from bums or people with mental problems on the verge of suicide. 

"Why is everything a cardiac arrest ? Come on, people!," Pierce says. 

The Mercy Hospital -- where Pierce takes the ailing -- is a terrible place. The staff is overworked, and the facility can hardly hold any more patients. Most of the people waiting for assistance in the emergency room are junkies or are stark raving mad. 

A policeman sits behind a desk and frequently tells Pierce that the hospital cannot hold any more people. The Mercy Hospital seems like a combination of a madhouse and a prison. "I think this place stinks," says Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette).

Pierce realizes that his job is not as important as he once thought it was. He is so tormented by his job that he can no longer function as a normal person. 

Pierce was once very good at his work, and on one occasion he compares himself with a soldier who is trained to act and no longer needs to think about what he is doing.

Cage's performance is really brilliant as the efficient but frustrated man who will try almost anything to get better. The only healthy outlet Pierce can count on is his friendship with Burke.

The romance between Pierce and Burke (Cage is married to Arquette in real life) is sometimes corny, but things get interesting when Burke acts out of character and Pierce tries to help her. 

Pierce sometimes looks as bad as the person he is trying to help. One of Pierce's biggest problems is that he is seeing the dead come back to complain due to the fact that he was not able to save them. 

It is difficult to know whether Pierce is hallucinating or actually seeing and hearing dead people. Some of the spookiest and best scenes of the film takes place when Pierce sees things that may or may not be there.

Pierce's partners Marcus (Ving Rhames) and Tom Sizemore (Tom Walls) are also odd characters, but they can cope better with the realities of the job. Rhames only appears for a short time in the movie, but long enough to give a memorable performance. 

Marcus constantly flirts with a female dispatcher, and carries a thermos containing vodka for drinking after-hours. The comedic team of Rhames and Cage is sometimes even funnier than John Travolta's (Vincent Vega) and Samuel L. Jackson's (Jules Winnfield) performance in Pulp Fiction

Walls plays a character similar to the one played by Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito) in GoodFellas.

Tom Sizemore is a man with a necessity for violence. Like DeVito in Taxi Driver, Sizemore is consumed with rage and violence, but he is a fun person to observe: After their shift is over, he begins to hit the ambulance with a baseball bat. 

Bringing Out the Dead could become a cult classic in the same category as Repo Man or Night of the Living Dead.
 

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