Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
Release Date: October 11th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Renny Harlin Actors: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Yvonne Zima, Craig Bierko, Brian Cox, David Morse
xciting and witty, Renny Harlin’s “The Long Kiss Goodnight” may have a few glaring faults, but nevertheless remains a largely underappreciated entry amongst action films of the ‘90s. A great cast brings the implausibility of the plot to a standstill, while overloaded action keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. “Pulp Fiction”-like dialogue rapidly spurted by Samuel L. Jackson (coincidentally), along with plenty of dark humor, outweighs the few overly annoying bits – such as a lisp-ridden daughter (are the filmmakers trying to be cute?) and a pathetically benign villain. It helps that the script was penned by Shane Black, the writer of “Lethal Weapon,” “Last Action Hero,” and “The Last Boy Scout” (he also wrote and directed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3”).
Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) suffers from amnesia, remembering nothing of her former life up until she was discovered washed ashore several years back. Now living in Pennsylvania, she’s started fresh, claiming a normal life – with a boyfriend, a child (Yvonne Zima), and a job as a teacher. Unfortunately, her normalcy is short-lived; when she’s spotted as Mrs. Claus in a Christmas parade on TV by a convicted murderer (Joseph McKenna), he breaks out of prison to attack her at her home. Barely escaping with her life, but startlingly possessing the wherewithal to fight back, she quickly hires private investigator Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson) to help her discover the secrets of her past. But as covert government agencies and old enemies realize that she’s still alive, her very existence becomes a life-or-death struggle to uncover the horrors of who she once was.
While some of the plot points and unexpected connections are a bit too far into the unnecessarily contrived side of things, the dialogue is always sharp and pleasingly funny. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is the oddly placed humor, which unexpectedly surfaces even during moments of destructive violence and torture. Patterned similarly to Quentin Tarantino’s breakneck, word-heavy scripts, covering miles of unrelated territories and silly trivia, all while cementing intriguing character personalities, “The Long Kiss Goodnight” becomes quotable and laugh-out-loud hilarious – a nice contrast to the nonstop explosive action.
Jackson is always watchable, and here he plays a role notably similar to his turn in “Die Hard with a Vengeance.” Both creations are little more than unprepared bystanders who get mixed up in life-threatening situations and become dependent on a very unlikely partner to bail them out of trouble. Geena Davis is also well suited for the part of Samantha (and alter ego Charly), even if her character’s confidence occasionally becomes overwhelming. The biggest flaw is the villain Timothy (Craig Bierko), a dopey gunman whose immaturity makes him far too incompetent to be a worthy antagonist. His one-line asides don’t muster laughs and his overdone attempt at being scary causes his character to become even more childish. Charly’s daughter fares no better, possessing just enough screentime to be terribly annoying. Thankfully, the film counters those errors with fast-paced adventure that never lets up, detonative mayhem, a decent body count, a one-against-the-world bravado, an unflinching approach to mouthy dialogue, and “a substantial amount of strong bloody violence” (an element of its R rating), allowing the project as a whole to be a shining example of an overlooked actioner.
– Mike Massie