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