Bringing Out the Dead

October 22nd, 1999


Bringing Out the Dead

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Still of Patricia Arquette, Nicolas Cage and Marc Anthony in Bringing Out the DeadStill of Patricia Arquette and Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the DeadStill of Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the DeadStill of Ving Rhames in Bringing Out the DeadStill of Patricia Arquette in Bringing Out the Dead

A Manhattan ambulance paramedic, overworked and haunted by visions of his failures, fights to keep a tenuous grip on his clarity.

Release Year: 1999

Rating: 6.8/10 (36,040 voted)

Critic's Score: 70/100

Director: Martin Scorsese

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman

An Easter story. Frank is a Manhattan medic, working graveyard in a two-man ambulance team. He's burned out, exhausted, seeing ghosts, especially a young woman he failed to save six months' before, and no longer able to save people: he brings in the dead. We follow him for three nights, each with a different partner: Larry, who thinks about dinner, Marcus, who looks to Jesus, and Tom, who wallops people when work is slow. Frank befriends the daughter of a heart victim he brings in; she's Mary, an ex-junkie, angry at her father but now hoping he'll live. Frank tries to get fired, tries to quit, and keeps coming back, to work and to Mary, in need of his own rebirth.

Writers: Joe Connelly, Paul Schrader

Nicolas Cage - Frank Pierce
Patricia Arquette - Mary Burke
John Goodman - Larry
Ving Rhames - Marcus
Tom Sizemore - Tom Wolls
Marc Anthony - Noel
Mary Beth Hurt - Nurse Constance
Cliff Curtis - Cy Coates
Nestor Serrano - Dr. Hazmat
Aida Turturro - Nurse Crupp
Sonja Sohn - Kanita
Cynthia Roman - Rose
Afemo Omilami - Griss
Cullen O. Johnson - Mr. Burke (as Cullen Oliver Johnson)
Arthur J. Nascarella - Captain Barney (as Arthur Nascarella)

Release Date: 22 October 1999

Filming Locations: 11th Avenue & 54th Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $6,193,052 (USA) (24 October 1999) (1936 Screens)

Gross: $16,640,210 (USA) (9 January 2000)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

When he was promoting the film on Charlie Rose, Scorsese said that one third of his movie was filmed inside ambulances and predominantly at night.

Crew or equipment visible: Just before Mrs. Burke and Frank climb into the back of the ambulance at the hospital, the camera and its operator are reflected in the open ambulance door

Dispatcher: You'll be going to the man who needs no introduction. Chronic caller of the year three straight and shooting for number four. The duke of drunk, the king of stink, our most frequent flier, Mr. Oh.

User Review

A brilliant film

Rating: 9/10

Bringing out the Dead, unfortunately, has fewer fans than it deserves. Why? Because this isn't simply a "New York" movie, or a movie about a paramedic, or about euthenasia, despite the ostensible setting and plot points.

Instead, Scorsese has created a cinematic myth about how haunted modern existence can be, and what it takes to be "saved" and find grace in a seemingly godless world. His vision of New York is all literate existential comedy, not a window into the rotten Big Apple. Mere satiric commentary on the tragedy of life in New York is for journeyman directors; Scorsese is doing something else entirely here.

In other words, this is that really rare beast--a literate film that is, first and foremost, still a great movie. In the plot and its implications, there's more here of Flannery O Conner or Virginia Woolf than there is here of, say, Tom Wolf. More pariticularly, Bringing out the Dead does with masterful filmmaking what Joyce's The Dead did in prose. This film is a truly eye-opening investigation into how the living exist in the shadow of the dead and dying.

The film accomplishes this incredibly difficult task on many levels--the cinematography alone should give you a clue that this is definitely not Taxi Driver or Goodfellas--there's something more sublime here (the beauty that American Beauty explains wonderfully is shown everywhere in this film, but Bringing out the Dead is less mundane, simple and "character" oriented). Every shot is right, and the numerous computer effects here--on display almost for their own sake in The Matrix--are here poetically put together by a master director.

So, just for it's approach to a subject that few movies or directors would even attempt, this film will be a classic. Oddly enough, one of the few movies it can be compared with is Hitchcock's Vertigo, which confronts the same issues in a different way. Scotty's (Jimmy Stewart) desire to "raise" the dead is as strong as Frank's, and audiences didn't much like Vertigo when it was released either.

The acting, the music, the incredible photography--they're all great, if you realize you are watching a literate, funny, well-plotted (as opposed to simply plotted) meditation on the ghosts that increasingly inhabit our technocratic dwellings.

Too good for a grade: see it on the biggest, best screen you can while you can. BTW--it's better the second time.


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