Friday October 11, 1996
It's depressing to consider the tremendous amount of top-notch talent and energy, not to mention tens of millions of dollars, that has been spent on depicting so much carnage, destruction, brutality and torture in the name of entertainment.
"The Long Kiss Goodnight" is a tour de force of technical brilliance, with flashes of humor and a wild spirit of adventure signifying that you're not supposed to take it too seriously, but the cumulative impact of its avalanche of mayhem is so numbing that it's enough to shrivel your soul.
It opens in a Grandma Moses-like small community in New England, where Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) lives a happy, normal life except with one hitch: Her memories go back only eight years. Naturally, her past catches up with her when she's recognized on TV while participating in a Christmas parade. It seems that before amnesia overcame her she was Charly Baltimore, a government agent long believed dead. The fact that she is still alive after all is a matter of major, surpassing consternation even for the president of the United States (G.D. Spradlin). What does Samantha know that's so damaging and when will she remember it?
Harlin and writer Shane Black plunge Samantha/Charly into immediate, nonstop danger and never let up until the finish. That's fine, but the escalating gore quickly outstrips the suspense, and the film turns into a grisly action-fantasy spectacle in which its lady in distress evolves into a superwoman of such endurance, daring and skill that she makes Wonder Woman look like a wimp.
There's no denying that Davis is dynamite, as completely up to the awesome physical demands of her role as she is in playing a woman gradually reclaiming her past identity and integrating it into her present personality. Luckily, for Samantha/Charly--and for us--a smart but way-down-on-his-luck private eye, Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson), has caught up with her to lend a hand (and an antic humor) just as the super-sadistic bad guys are hot on her trail.
Jackson is just great, and he and Davis exude star charisma; it's too bad that the filmmakers weren't content to strike a balance between action and a pair of formidable screen personalities instead of lapsing into bone-crunching excess. Camera work, stunt work, special effects and other credits are up to snuff, but "The Long Kiss Goodnight" is far from it.
The Long Kiss Goodnight, 1996. R, for a substantial amount of strong bloody violence, and for strong language. A New Line Cinema release of a Forge production in association with Steve Tisch. Director Renny Harlin. Producers Harlin, Stephanie Austin, Shane Black. Executive producers Tisch, Richard Saperstein, Michael De Luca. Screenplay by Black. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro. Editor William C. Goldenberg. Costumes Michael Kaplan. Music Alan Silvestri. Special visual effects by Jeffrey A. Okun. Production designer Howard Cummings. Art directors Steve Arnold, Dennis Davenport. Set designers Tom Doherty, Gordon White. Set decorator Michael Taylor. Running time: 2 hours. Geena Davis as Samantha/Charly. Samuel L. Jackson as Mitch Henessey. Patrick Malahide as Perkins. Craig Bierko as Timothy.