Martin Scorsese is rock-and-roll. Not that he incorporates music masterfully into his movies. To be sure, his use of the rock is deft, precise and tres cool. (Who can forget “Street Fightin’ Man” in Mean Streets?) However, Scorsese’s films are possessed with the spirit of rock music, the energy and verve of the rock-and-roll culture, and a bridled rawness that injects an uncomfortable dynamic of anticipation into his dramas.
Scorsese’s latest collaboration with Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation Of Christ) has yielded yet another rock-and-roll movie bristling with kinetic energy. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, Bringing Out The Dead is an episodic vision quest with adventures that plunge into the depths of despair while simultaneously rolling with laughter. With definite Beat sensibilities, Bringing Out The Dead provides a fascinating, intimate look at personal growth through insanity, drug abuse and paranormal experiences.
Frank Pierce (Nicholas Cage) is an overworked, high-strung EMT in New York City, on the verge of snapping. Lately, he has been losing patients and sees their ghosts walking the city streets. Partnered with a rogue’s gallery of ambulance drivers, the relatively sane Larry (John Goodman), the sermonizing Marcus (Ving Rhames) and the violent Tom (Tom Sizemore), Frank attempts to reconcile himself with the spirits of the dead while witnessing the shocking horrors all around him. His life intersects with the Burke family when he resurrects the patriarch after a heart attack. Each return to the ER brings him into contact with daughter Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), a former junkie doing some soul searching herself.
For this outing, Scorsese assembled his posse of familiars, Casino cinematographer Robert Richardson, uber-editor Thelma Shoonmaker (the film belongs to her in so many ways) and composer Elmer Bernstein. Together, they have created a hauntingly beautiful story of transcendence. Bringing Out The Dead awakens the spirit of the living.