Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Renny Harlin
Stars: Geena Davis, Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Craig Bierko, Brian Cox, David Morse, G D Spradlin, Tom Amandes, Yvonne Zima, Melina Kanakaredes, Alan North
Running Time: 120 minutes.
Despite his reputation as a classy director of brutal, slickly produced action thrillers that mix generous dollops of violence with cutting edge special effects, Renny Harlin has only really managed to deliver the goods twice – first with Die Hard 2 and most recently with Cliffhanger – but here he again finds some semblance of form. Harlin is working from a script from Shane Black, whose previous scripts for Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout have made him one of the hottest and highest paid writers in Hollywood. This spectacular, outrageously over the top action thriller contains all of the brutal action, pacy thrills and spills, and droll touches of humour that we have come to expect from Black’s undeniably formulaic thrillers, and action junkies certainly won’t be disappointed in the results.
The Long Kiss Goodnight is certainly one of the most exciting and violent thrillers of recent years, staged with gusto and crammed full of spectacular stunts, lots of brutal violence and punishing action sequences and lots of superb pyrotechnics that set new standards for the genre. The Long Kiss Goodnight is also unusual action fodder from Hollywood in that the central hero is a female, who confidently handles herself in a primarily male dominated genre, tackling heavily armed terrorists and dodging bullets.
The film’s heroine is suburban school teacher Samantha Caine (Geena Davis), whose life really began only eight years earlier when she woke up on a beach suffering from amnesia. All her previous attempts to learn details of her mysterious past have failed, and she has resigned herself to her comfortable new life with her daughter and fiance, until her past life again begins to intrude on the present. One Christmas Samantha suddenly demonstrates a disturbing proficiency with knives, martial arts and handguns, and when a berserk ex-con barges through her front door armed with a shotgun she despatches him in brutal fashion. Her comfortable life soon dissolves as parts of her past life come back to haunt her and threaten her new family.
With the help of the laconic Mitch Henessy (Samuel L Jackson), an ex-convict turned down and out private investigator, Samantha dives back into her past, working her way through a labyrinth of divided loyalties, betrayal and violence. Samantha discovers that she was once known as Charley Baltimore, a top government assassin believed dead for the past eight years after failing to complete a mission. Furthermore her unexpected resurrection comes at a most inopportune time, as she is an embarrassing relic of the long forgotten cold war. Old enemies are now allies of expediency, and Caine’s former employer Perkins (Patrick Malahide) decides that it would be better for all concerned is she were to remain dead and buried. Samantha/Charley finds herself torn between her new found values and happy family life and the deadly skills of her former trade as she battles an army of well armed and ruthless terrorists, preparing to unleash a horrifying terrorist outrage that will kill thousands of innocent tourists at Niagara Falls.
Pumped up and having obviously worked on her muscle tone, Davis looks the part and equips herself well in a very physical but basically unbelievable role, making for the most lethal female assassin since Luc Besson’s Nikita. It’s a fairly ludicrous role that doesn’t require much in the way of subtlety and nuance, and it is Jackson who fittingly enough steals the film with his wonderfully laconic and droll presence as the sradonic Henessy, whose character provides the brains and the humour to Davis’ brawn. Davis and Jackson establish a wonderful rapport throughout the film playing off each other with ease, and their snappy repartee, typical of the best of the buddy genre, works superbly. Apparently Henessy was killed off in the original drafts of the script, but Jackson brought to character to life so effectively that he was resurrected and given a larger role in the action. The villains are quite tough and ruthless here, but theatrical actor Craig Bierko brings touches of charisma and charm to his role as Timothy, the handsome and urbane but vicious terrorist.
Harlin directs at a relentless pace, and The Long Kiss Goodnight is brutal and unsubtle stuff, a thrilling roller coaster ride that contains some of the most spectacular and outrageous action sequences and breathtakingly unbelievable stunts ever staged for a film. The explosive finale has to be seen to be believed. The Long Kiss Goodnight is non-stop action and thrills all the way, and it more than makes up for the disappointment that was Cutthroat Island, the previous collaboration between director Harlin and wife Davis.