New Line // 1996 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // January 16th, 2000
Eight years ago she lost her memory. Now, a detective must help her remember the past before it buries them both. What's forgotten is not always gone.
Renny Harlin, the director of Deep Blue Sea, Die Hard 2, and Cliffhanger, delivers a non-stop action thriller in the tradition of James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of New Line's first DVD efforts, it is a disc that still excels, though sadly there are few extras in this pre-Platinum Edition release.
Sometimes you want to watch a movie that will really make you think, and contemplate the divine synergism of the universe. Other times you just want to eat a bowl of popcorn and be blown off your feet. If you are in the mood for the latter, then The Long Kiss Goodnight is right up your alley. This movie has tons of action, incredible stunts, and quite a lot of violence, but has a few interesting twists and a wonderful cast. Not many films like this get the likes of Academy award winner Geena Davis (The Accidental Tourist, Thelma and Louise, Beetlejuice) and Oscar nominee Samuel Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Deep Blue Sea, A Time to Kill). Even though this film has been dismissed as over the top, it is no more so than any James Bond flick, or any action movie by Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, or Bruce Willis. These two fine actors, and a fine supporting cast, save this from being purely gratuitous action.
Davis stars as Samantha Caine, who we learn at the beginning doesn't remember anything before eight years ago, when she was found pregnant and with a head wound on a beach. She is now a schoolteacher and mother, and engaged to a nice guy. Disparate events come together to disrupt her sedate and idyllic life, however. A jail inmate sees her on television in a parade and goes berserk. A private investigator named Mitch Hennesy (Jackson), who is so down on his luck he has resorted to con-man swindles, has found tangible clues to her past. Lastly, an auto accident has started Samantha on the road to remembrance, and flashes of the old girl begin reasserting themselves in disturbing ways. Finally we discover that Samantha Caine is in reality Charly Baltimore, and she was an assassin for the US government. Unfortunately, both the bad guys who used to be her targets and the good guys who were her bosses both now want her dead. It seems she has resurfaced just in time to disrupt an illegal mission.
Certainly much of the movie and its stunts are implausible. The bad guys again break one of the cardinal rules for being an evil nasty: When you have the chance to kill your nemesis, do it! Don't tell them the plan and then assume this terrible trap is going to kill them. I don't recall people getting overly upset at characters with names like Pussy Galore in the James Bond films though, so I'm willing to set aside the thought processes and go along for the ride. Quite a ride it is, too. The action keeps up a feverish pace, with plenty of fights, gunfire, and things blowing up. The decision of using Niagara Falls for a setting was inspired; it gave an even greater grandeur to the action.
This was certainly one of Geena Davis' most physical roles, as she is said to have done many of her own stunts. She was in great shape and even managed to bring some depth to her character. There was an interesting dichotomy between Samantha and Charly, almost like a dualism between femininity and masculinity. Charly was so tough and coarse that she might as well have been a man; Samantha was purely feminine. Eventually seeing her able to integrate the two into a caring yet strong person was perhaps the deepest character development we could expect out of an action picture. Samuel L. Jackson was a welcome foil for Davis; many of his lines provided some light-hearted release of tension, and he made a quite believable character. I say this despite some decidedly unbelievable situations he was in.
Enough about the film, how did the disc compare? In a word, exceptionally. I was worried at first because the packaging did not say the transfer was anamorphic, but it is. The other side also has the *ahem* Pan and Scan version. The video is very sharp and detailed. In one or two places perhaps it was a bit overshadowed, but only for a moment. Colors were accurate and well saturated, with little to no artifacts or chroma distortions. The only grain I noticed was in one shower scene with Geena Davis, and perhaps it was meant to hide some detail purposely. Nothing to distract the viewer, and plenty to attract one. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is even better; in fact, it is one of the best I've heard. The frequent gunfire chases around to the discrete surrounds and can make you want to duck. The explosions and aforesaid gunfire will really give your subwoofer a chance to shine as well. The energizing and dynamic score comes up from all around you, something I appreciate in an action flick.
Only in the category of extras does this disc underwhelm. Only a trailer and cast and crew bios and filmographies are included. This disc was released in April of '97 though, and New Line had yet to begin their fine Platinum Editions. I think they've paid their penance for an otherwise fine disc many times over.
One of the best action movies around, so far as the action and stunts go. A thoroughly enjoyable popcorn flick, beautifully presented on DVD. A recommended purchase.
The film and disc are both acquitted. New Line is sentenced to, well, do exactly what they are doing now.
Review content copyright © 2000 Norman Short; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer
* Talent Bios