With its depiction of New York City nightlife and streets filled with whores and drug addicts, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD hearkens back to the paranoid mood of TAXI DRIVER and AFTER HOURS. As the last Scorsese film of the nineties and a bookend to the triumphant GOODFELLAS, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD caps off a remarkable and eclectic decade for the filmmaker. For fans who sat impatiently through the director's forays into religion (THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST) and historical costumers (THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, KUNDUN), BRINGING OUT THE DEAD is a treat (how strange it always is to use that word for a Scorsese film!), another unflinching look into the underbelly of human nature. The story of one weekend in the life of a burned-out Emergency Medical Team ambulance driver (Nicolas Cage) never reaches any particular destination, but like several excellent Scorsese films, it is the journey itself that makes the film worthwhile. Cage, an actor whom I have never been partial to, is at his best as the EMT worker who looks like death warmed over and feels even worse, obsessing over those victims he could not save. He gets able support from the three actors (John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore) who play his various nightly partners, each of whom deal with the horrors of the job differently.
An underrated film, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD may rarely be mentioned in the same breath as some of the director's more popular films, but it is essential Scorsese, bringing him back to the days of MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER and the theme of salvation found on the streets of New York City. ½ - JB