Monday, June 10, 2013

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Title: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Director: Renny Harlin

Cast: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Brian Cox, David Morse, Craig Bierko


The deal with The Long Kiss Goodnight is that it’s the kind of movie that makes you wonder why it tanked at the box office in such a big way. I mean, here’s a film that’s action packed, fast paced, has a great cast, and is quite frankly pure adrenaline filled fun, yet it didn’t manage to get audiences’ butts to the theater. There are a few reasons that we can blame for that, but I’ll get into them later. I hadn’t seen The Long Kiss Goodnight in such a long time that I decided to give it the old re-watch/reassessment, just because Shane Black is back on the radar writing and directing big budget action films like Iron Man 3 (2013). You see, Shane Black got a lot of heat for selling the script for The Long Kiss Goodnight for four million dollars! He suddenly became the highest paid writer in Hollywood, but also one of the most hated. I chalk it up to jealousy, anybody who is offered that much money for writing an action film is going to take the money! I know I would! The ones spewing the hatred were just jealous it wasn’t them getting paid four million dollars, that’s all. So this movie is notoriously famous for that alone;  but also because it was a huge flop. After this movie tanked the way it did, Shane Black went into hibernation, hiding away from Hollywood. Did The Long Kiss Goodnight deserve to flop so hard? Does the film stand the test of time? I say hells yeah! I’m glad I bought this one and re-watched it, its fun times all the way!

On this one we meet Samantha Caine, a school teacher and a mother.  She’s on the PTA and all that, she’s the perfect house wife/mom type of deal. But there’s one problem though, she can’t remember who she used to be. Two years prior, she woke up on a beach, half dead, unable to recall who she was before that, so she started a new life, a quiet life in the suburbs. Yet slowly but surely, in subtle ways, her old self is resurfacing. She has nightmares in which a mirror image of herself tells her that her real name is Charlie and that Charlie is “coming back!” Samantha suddenly becomes quite skilled at throwing knifes! Suddenly she’ll have these short outbursts of anger and tells her daughter to stop being such a baby! She tells her “life is pain! Get used to it!” These are all things she puts to the side and tries to ignore; she just tries to continue with her normal suburban life. The real problems start when a gang of thugs, dressed as Christmas carolers come knocking at her door shooting at her and her family with machine guns! Why do these guys want her dead? Who was she before being picture perfect mommy?

The Long Kiss Goodnight got a bad rap for a couple of reasons, number one being that this was the film that Renny Harlin directed after Cutthroat Island (1995), a film that was one of the biggest flops in cinematic history. Just so you get an idea of what kind of a flop Cutthroat Island was, it cost 98 million dollars yet made back only about 11 million at the box office! Dang, now that’s what I call a major flop! So anyhow, apparently audiences didn’t trust Harlin as a director because he’d done that “awful” pirate movie that turned out to be one of the biggest turkeys ever. On Cutthroat Islands’ behalf I will say that I never understood why it failed, I think that movie was huge fun as well. I mean, it was no less fun than those Pirates of the Caribbean movies that are so popular nowadays. I guess it was just the wrong time, or the wrong cast, or whatever. Who knows why audiences end up collectively turning their backs on a given project, sometimes it’s the stupidest of things. But in the case of The Long Kiss Goodnight, its failure probably came as a result of Cutthroat Islands colossal downfall. In Shane Black’s own words “I wish The Long Kiss Goodnight hadn’t been released after Cutthroat Island” Worldwide The Long Kiss Goodnight made close to 90 million, but domestically it didn’t even make half of its 65 million budget back.

Sad story too because this movie is a lot of fun, as an action movie, it hits all the right buttons. First we have that intrigue of Samantha having a second personality buried deep within her psyche, this side of the story is always fun because you just know that that second personality is gonna come bursting out at some point. In that sense it reminded me of Angelina Jolie in SALT (2010), a deadly female fatale who doesn’t quite understand her full potential…yet. Geena Davis is fantastic on this one, she plays the innocent, beautiful wife/mom, living the family life, then suddenly she does the 180 and turns into a hellish top secret agent who can kill you with her breath. She turns into a full blown action star on this one! I loved seeing Geena Davis with blond hair, lots of eye liner, holding a machine gun, shooting it with a mean look on her face! She looked freaking great! Mrs. Davis went on to state that she did most of her own stunts on this show, pretty impressive if you ask me! As Samuel Jackson’s character ‘Mitch’ puts it: “What I’m saying is, back when we first met you were all like “Oh Phooey! I burned the darned muffins!” Now you go into a bar, ten minutes later, sailors come running out, what up with that? ” I enjoyed that double personality twist. Mrs. Davis was married to Renny Harlin the director of this film; so Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight signified two back to back turkeys on Mrs. Davis’s resume, worst part is they were both directed by her husband! Kind of makes sense that two years later they divorced.

But all that bull crap aside, I’m of the opinion this movie shouldn’t have tanked at all. The last half hour of this movie is nonstop action! Seriously, it’s a barrage of huge explosions, machine guns, cars flying through the air as they burst into flames….I mean, this one has one explosive ending! This movie is so much fun that both Harlin and Jackson have stated that out of all the films they’ve made, this is their favorite. One thing I found interesting about the script is how the bad guys are trying to pull off a 9/11 by planning a terrorist attack that they will blame on the Muslims, just so they can get more funding for their own purposes! I was like damn; did Shane Black have a magic ball that could look a couple of years into the future when he wrote this? Freaking weird! But thinking back a bit, Mr. Black was probably commenting a bit on the terrorist bombing that occurred on the World Trade Center in 1993, remember that one?

Directing wise, I think Harlin did a great job. This is a director whose films I’ve always enjoyed. He was responsible for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), the most successful Nightmare on Elm Street film of them all. He also made Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), a worthy sequel to the original and he had a taste of big time success when he made Cliffhanger (1993) with Sylvester Stallone. His career started going down after he did these two huge flops, but they were films that flopped for all the wrong reasons. I’ve seen far worse movies then these make gazillions at the box office, so let’s just chalk these two back to back bombs to bad circumstances. Harlin’s career never quite recuperated from that blow, he ended up directing truly bad films like Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) and The Convenant (2006). But back in his glory days, the guy was on fire! As it is, The Long Kiss Goodnight is so fast paced that I don’t think there’s a shot in the film that lasts more then 3 to 4 seconds! Literally! The only flaw I can find is that sometimes we go from plot point to plot point a bit too fast, so much so that sometimes you feel like there’s a gap in there somewhere, but overall, even with these few hiccups, the film is unabashedly entertaining. Recommend it for a night of over the top fun!

Rating : 4 out of 5


LLJ said...

I agree, this was a really fun movie, and for Torontonians it's fun to see a very obvious shot of Honest Ed's instead of like most movies going the usual route and filming in ambiguous places around Toronto. I'd say that perhaps the lighthearted cheesy comedy bits don't always fit with the occasionally brutal moments of violence, but that's a minor nitpick.

Franco Macabro said...

You mean like that scene where Charlie's about to blow something up and before she ligths the fuse she tells her little girl "should we get a dog?"

Maurice Mitchell said...

That was about the time Geena Davis was primed to be a big budget female action hero. She never did recover from those two flops career wise. I enjoyed it too and always watch when it's on cable. It was the first film I thought of when I heard of Salt.

LLJ said...

Francisco: I was thinking more of those scenes early in the movie with Geena Davis playing the loving housewife and these really cheesy and lighthearted family humour scenes which wouldn't look out of place in Home Alone, and then minutes later some really brutally violent fight would break out when the bad guys come after her.

teddy crescendo said...

That explosion at the end is still one of THE greatest of all-time, the way the cars are literally thrown into the air like confetti, just like the equally astonishing explosion of the Jumbo Jet at the end of Die Hard 2, Renny Harlin certainly knows how to entertain the audience with truly magnificent and memorable images.

jimmie t. murakami said...

If the film made a total of $120 million world wide off of a $65 million budget it would have still broken even.

jimmie t. murakami said...

For me the most interesting thing about "Cutthroat Island" going down the toilet at the box office is that i thought it was better than all the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies put together ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Geena Davis (as the bird was in 1974 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Franco Macabro said...

Maurice: Yeah, that's too bad too because I really thought she was great as an action star, she was beautiful...she could've been the Angelina Jolie of her time, but instead, these two mega flops tarnished her chances. I think what they did with SALT was re-work some of the ideas presented here...simple as that.

LLJ: I know, the scenes where she's in the tree house with her daughter and her daughters friends are kind of scared of her and think she's "weird" , I guess it was a way to establish that hard contrast between who she'd become, and who she really was.

Teddy: Agree about that explosion! It's huge! I mean cars are flying all over the place! Agree, Harlin was great at blowing shit up really cool. I remember loving that scene in Die Hard 2, where Bruce Willis ejects from the plane, and we see the explosion below him, awesome shot.

Jimmie: Yeah, but it didn't even reach 90 million worldwide. Cutthroat Island is great fun, I will be reviewing it for the 90's blog a thon, hope you guys are enjoying it.

steve prefontaine said...

Scary to think Geena Davis was pushing 40 when this film was made, 22 years past her prime already.

Jennifer Croissant said...

Interesting that the best film of the 90`s was "Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994) but nobodys ever heard of it ! ?.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, this is a pretty fun flick Wwth a few flaws stopping it from becoming a classic. My only major issue is Craig Berko as the main villain. It needed someone with a bit more gravitas.

Still it's got some great scenes. The ice skating bit, the water torture scene and that surreal bit where she runs over the deer (what the hell was that about?)

Franco Macabro said...

Steve: Yet, looking every bit as desirable!

Jennifer: You're right, I'd never heard of it, I'll have to check it out!

Jack: Agree, somethings do stop it from becoming a classic, which is why I give it a four out of five stars, this is the rating I reserve for a film that is great, but not fantastic.

The deer scene was the scene that triggered the return of Charlie, like any good film about amnesiacs, there has to be a knock on the head to bring it all back.

Unknown said...

I stayed away from this film for years because of its rep but it shows up on TV so much that I finally broke down and watched it... watched it a few more times and really grew to appreciate it more and more. The film is so silly and over-the-top but is self-aware of this in that trademark Shane Black kinda way.

I think that it may have also flopped at the time because mainstream filmgoers didn't want to see a female action hero kicking ass. In some respects, it was a little ahead of its time. I always liked Geena Davis and it's such a shame that she fell out of the A-list group and that she doesn't do much mainstream stuff anymore.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, it's also grown on me over the years J.D. Since you mention that it has that trademark Shane Black thing going for it, I fully agree, for example, we have that trademark that Shane Black has carry through almost all of his films (right down to Iron Man 3), The Long Kiss Goodnight takes place entirely during Christmas! A sharp contrast to all of the violence and bloodshed!

What you mention about female leads in action films is true, very rarely do audiences accept a female in an action role, most of the time these films flop. For example Aeon Flux, Elektra, Ultraviolet and a couple of others. It is rare that audiences accept a woman in this kind of role, but when they do, we get films like Wanted and SALT, both of which starred Jolie as the lead actin star.

Shame about Geena Davis too, she was so game for this one!

SFF said...


I probably can't add much, but I loved your assessment of this one.

It's a terrific film and sorely underrated and underappreciated.

Geena Davis was always terrific in just about anything, but she's great in this action number.

I just loved Geena in A League Of Their Own and The Fly and here. She's tops!

Also, like you, I really have enjoyed some of Renny Harlin's stuff particularly Die Hard 2. It's strange because he seems to be a kind of whipping boy and never gets any respect for his stuff. Bizarre.

But, Die Hard 2 and this film are very strong pictures. I enjoyed Cliffhanger too.

In sum total, their was chemistry there and it's too bad no one really connected to how this picture works in a comic book style.


Franco Macabro said...

Agree man, Die Hard 2 is awesome, it has over the top action every step fot he way, that scene where he ejects from the plane as it is blowing up is one of the best in the whole series. Too bad that after both of those flops Harlin fell down to making lack luster films. I mean, I don't hate Deep Blue Sea, but when compared to his earlier films, it feels bad. And Exorcist The Beginning? And The Covenant? All bad in my book. Funny how a director can just loose it sometimes.

Dutch said...

From what I understand there was also the fact that at the time of production, Renny Harlin and Geena Davis were married and as Maurice said, it was around the time she was pitched as the next action star. Seems Harlin had these films in the pipeline as vanity projects.

As for Aeon Flux, it also didn't help that the movie butchered the original MTV series, so much that Peter Chung himself disowned the film. but considering what Aeon Flux was like, a coherent film probably would not have been possible.

Franco Macabro said...

True about Aeon Flux, if it was going to be anything like the animated series, it should have been more surreal and dreamlike, but they went with a straight forward sci-fi and messed up the concept of the show.

Other films with lead female action stars:

- Catwoman
- Supergirl
- V.I.Warchowski
- Barbwire

SFF said...

I meant to mention that. Man, we think alike on some things my friend.

Deep blue sea is good in spots but it was not of the same caliber as DH2 and the film you review here. It is lacking and just does not hit the mark entirely.

Great idea too.

I was surprised Ebert gave it thumbs up. It was one of those reviews by him I disagreed with him on. I wouldn't have despite good moments.

Franco Macabro said...

You know what, I think I'll revisit Deep Blue Sea, just to see what I'll think of it now, it is a 90's film after all!


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