Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

I read about this on Snarky's Machine a while ago but it got lost in my netflix queue, a sad tale suffered by so many films. Thank goodness, though, I finally watched The Long Kiss Goodnight, because this movie rules. Waking up alone and two months pregnant on a beach in New Jersey, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) has no memory of her past but has managed to carve out a life in the past eight years. She's a small-town schoolteacher in Pennsylvania with a nice guy boyfriend and a cute daughter, but little bits of her former self have been resurfacing and she's scared of who she might have been, and who she might become. When an assassin attacks her in her own home, she enlists the aid of private detective Mitch Henessy (Samuel L Jackson) to finally uncover her past, and it turns out it's ACTION-PACKED.

For some reason I had this vibe that maybe this movie wouldn't be very good, that it wouldn't live up to its cool premise. But that was a stupid thing to think, because this movie is pretty fucking awesome. I love Geena Davis in general and she is just excellent in her dual role, sweet and motherly one moment and sharp-tongued and homicidal the next, and then effectively combining these two parts of herself into one person. It's an interesting character and I loved watching her shift and evolve as the film progressed. I also kind wish I had a secret past and suddenly developed awesome fighting skills? Maybe one day. I loved her rapport with Jackson, too, since their witty and often mean repartee is the kind of buddy comedy at which Black excels, just usually not with a female character. And Jackson himself is great, rocking these awesome green duds and cracking wise every few minutes. The story itself took a little while to get going, but I liked that the script really takes time to establish these characters, so that their later actions are seen in context.

Action-wise, I was pretty excited by this movie. I'm anti-gun but damn this is the kind of thing where I totally have action movie fantasies about going Commando on some armored compound and shooting all the bad guys. There's also a crazy bomb threat that involves a huge truck and shooting from a helicopter and lots of fire and also crossing the Canadian border? It's rad. In fact, I think most things about this movie are rad, and I'm not sure why we aren't constantly talking about it? I know it's sort of mired in mid-90s-ness in its visuals and gritty fights, and I know amnesia is like this weird, easy plot device, and it does sort of lose itself towards the end, but I can't help loving it all. Also if you're a Shane Black fan, this is interesting to see a few of his jokes and ideas used differently- I recognized some from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and I'm now wondering if the joke about everyone surviving at the end is drawn from this movie (originally a major character was supposed to be killed off). Curious.


Pair This Movie With: Hmmm a badass lady assassin? I'm pretty sure Haywire would be the perfect pairing. Alternatively, the overall tone made me think of another Shane Black film, The Last Boy Scout.


  1. It is such a wonderful movie. I still don't understand why it was panned, other than it was WAAAAY ahead of its time in terms of its tone (cheeky) and its lead (female).

  2. I'll agree that it's a fun movie with some witty dialogue, but it's also really stupid. There are a lot of painful one-liners, and Davis is laughably ridiculous as the hero. I can't argue if people enjoy it, but I'm in the camp that thinks it's brutal.

  3. Definitely a guilty pleasure movie for me. I didn't see it until it was on video. I like it more for SLJ than for Geena.

  4. I think you're onto something with this movie, though it has been too long since I last screened it to comment with any great detail. I do recall not going the way you have with Geena, that is I really didn't buy her in this role and I think the fact she hasn't really done another movie like this will probably say the same thing - that despite her charms (say in Thelma & Louise, no crying in baseball) it's a tough sell here. Nice review though and well assembled thoughts and criticism, praise and appreciation. Makes me want to go check this one out again and see if maybe I'm just misrememberin' - though I doubt it. cheers0>

  5. Love this film, always have done! :)