The Long Kiss Goodnight (18)

Directed by Renny Harlin

Starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson

These days, action pictures are ten a penny. It takes something special for a particular movie to stand out from the crowd. Here, the twist is that the action hero is a woman. Geena Davis plays an amneisiac school teacher who starts to get flashbacks of her former life after a car crash. She is disturbed to discover that she is a trained killer, and not an ordinary member of the PTA.
Before you know it, she leaves her rather drippy daughter and soppy boyfriend to find out who she really was. Naturally, there are bad guys galore who want to kill her, and Davis must find the truth, save her daughter and build a future for herself.
In amongst all the explosions and killings she teams up with seedy detective, Samuel L Jackson, who gets most of the best one liners and shows again that Pulp Fiction was no fluke.
Naturally, this is preposterous nonsense, with ridiculously violent shoot outs, mega explosions and killings, with no sign of the police, and conspiracies galore. Husband and wife team, Harlin and Davis escape from the mess that was Cutthroat Island, to deliver a high octane action thriller, that is packed full of quips and bangs. Davis is fully believable as an assassin in the menacing stares line. She is nicely icy and hard, and although not a speedy runner, carries the film well. The relationship between her and Jackson is very well played. Jackson has a ball, in the sidekick role a la Tom Arnold, or other comedy relief.
I liked the story, although I found it hard to believe that a killer assassin would really forget all that training so completely, and then get it all back so quickly. Amnesia is always a bit of a cheat in film and TV. It can cover a laziness in the plotting. The first half of the film builds on Davis' confusion, and shows her getting alarming flashes of her former life. Once she is in full killer mode, she is less convincing, and her quips come across as sounding very contrived. As in most action films, she gets incredibly beaten up, and yet keeps going, when most people would be in hospital, with just some blood on her face, and a wheezy chest. In many ways, this 'keep-hitting-me-I'll-keep-getting-up' violence is dangerous, in that it gives the impression that very hard whacks with metal implements cause little more than a bit of blood. This is cartoon violence, Tom & Jerry stuff, but with real people. Davis should have died about 6 times during the film! Film fans should look out for the scene near the end where Davis wears a 'Thelma & Louise' headscarf and drives off in a very familiar looking convertible. No Susan Sarandon sadly. All in all, a skillful action picture, with a sympathetic heroine, smart sidekick, lots of thrills and spectacular set pieces mean this is an above average thriller. 7/10.

November 1996

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