Nic at Night

Bringing Out the Dead

Amazingly these complex turns barely hint at the wealth of material and characterization littered throughout Bringing Out the Dead, so it should be a scintillating entertainment, right? Well… sort of. Try schizophrenic. Despite moments of gritty greatness that rival Scorsese's best, the movie is severely hampered by please-everyone syndrome, especially in the editing and choice of music. Rather than running with just Elmer Bernstein's score (schmaltzy echoes of '60s cop shows), the producers have decided to bombard us with a ludicrous stream of poorly juxtaposed rock songs. Yes, it is indeed stimulating to hear the Clash's "Janie Jones" and "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A." blasting nonsensically through ambulance montages, but the nonstop parade of hits (the Who, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Natalie Merchant, and UB40, to name a few) quickly becomes distracting, an invitation either to plug the ears or close the eyes. The pace of the movie is ruined by this fervid, multigenerational marketing scheme. Why not just cut out the dull, redundant bits?

It's a dirty job, but Nicolas Cage's gotta do it
It's a dirty job, but Nicolas Cage's gotta do it

Excluding a strange and utterly unnecessary racial slur hurled at a turbaned taxi driver, Bringing Out the Dead is comprised of some profoundly compassionate ideas and scenes. (Note Frank's hallucinations and the guilt theme.) It would be nice to gush poetically over it, to say things like, "Graffiti and derelicts hover like a beckoning penance," or "This rumination upon mortality reawakens the soul," or (every payola-driven critic's standby) "A shattering triumph!" But it's much more accurate to state that this time around Marty's New York is simply a pretty cool mess. Plenty of soulful blood is splattered, but only about half of it congeals.

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