Saturday 7 May 2022

Movie Review: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

A wild action thriller, The Long Kiss Goodnight never takes itself too seriously in the quest for the next narrow escape and ever-larger explosions.

In rural Pennsylvania, Samantha Cain (Geena Davis) is a school teacher, raising her young daughter Caitlin and in a happy relationship with boyfriend Hal. Samantha's new life started eight years ago, when she lost all her memories but found herself pregnant. Now a car crash jolts some memories loose, while low-rent private detective Mitch Hennessey (Samuel L. Jackson) uncovers clues about Samantha's past, and a violent prisoner spots Samantha on television participating in a small-town parade. 

Samantha and Mitch start piecing together her past, and connect with shadowy government official Nathan Waldman (Brian Cox), who warns Samantha she is in danger. Her previous identity was Charly Elizabeth Baltimore, a trained government assassin, and she is now the target of criminal mastermind Daedalus (David Morse) and his main henchman Timothy (Craig Bierko), who are involved in a domestic false flag terrorism conspiracy.

A disengage-your-mind thriller from the pen of Shane Black, The Long Kiss Goodnight has a clearly defined purpose: provide non-stop free-wheeling action at a dizzying pace, with all associated contrivances. High production values and sheer audacity help fulfill the limited promise despite derivative material and a paucity of wit and narrative edge.

Memory loss is one of the cheapest devices in the screenplay cookbook, and from that starting point Black does not hide his love of recycling. The cheap private detective, the former secret life as a government-trained assassin, the conspiracy to wring money out of government, the child in need of rescue, the difficult-to-kill cold-blooded bad guy, and even the countdown to the big explosion are all trotted out with almost numbing knowingness for Samantha to navigate.

The frequent shoot-outs, chases, incredible stunts, and detonations are well-staged by director Renny Harlin, and help distract from the sense of familiarity. Less helpful is the casting, and both leads appear uncomfortable. Asked to perform as suburban mom Samantha and efficient killer Charly, Geena Davis betrays her acting, not aided by an almost laughable voice transformation between the two characters. Samuel L. Jackson is essentially wasted as private detective Hennessey, his character reduced to tag-along status discharging throwaway lines.

The Long Kiss Goodnight entertains with overflowing energy if not originality.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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