Bringing Out the Dead | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bringing Out the Dead

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A conscientious NYC paramedic (Nicolas Cage) has lost a patient whose image continues to haunt him in this seminarrative plotted as a series of calls he answers with a series of partners (John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore). A kind of revisionist Taxi Driver-After Hours-Leaving Las Vegas, the movie draws genre allusions, specific references, a range of styles, and several haltingly linear story lines into a maelstrom. Its hard-to-pin-down tone is frighteningly original--simultaneously world-weary and adolescent with an aura of perpetual anxiety, as if the characters and filmmakers were in pursuit of a catharsis everyone knows will never come. The movie systematically generates enigmas as it attacks many of life's deepest questions--sometimes literally, through Cage's portentous voice-overs, sometimes suggestively, through the startling combination of physical elements within a given shot or scene. The pop tunes that make up a significant part of the sound track, as in many other movies directed by Martin Scorsese, are often slow paced by 90s standards; it's a distinctively middle-aged edginess that dominates the hyperbolically gory, morbid, schmaltzy, paranoid-surreal text--a text that provokes thought more than directs it, which should fascinate new and repeat viewers for a long time. The screenplay by Paul Schrader was based on a novel by Joe Connelly. With Patricia Arquette, Marc Anthony, and Cliff Curtis. Chatham 14, Ford City, Golf Glen, Norridge, North Riverside, Old Orchard, Village, Water Tower, Webster Place. --Lisa Alspector

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