The Long Kiss Goodnight
1996, R, 120 min. Directed by Renny Harlin. Starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Craig Bierko, Brian Cox, David Morse, G.D. Spradlin.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 11, 1996
Husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Renny Harlin and Geena Davis had no direction to go but up in the wake of the commercial thrashing that greeted their last project together, Cutthroat Island. The Long Kiss Goodnight represents something of a return to form for director Harlin, whose dexterity with action-adventure movies was made apparent in Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2. And while The Long Kiss Goodnight is certainly a vindication of sorts, the movie's immediate attractions of powerhouse action stunts and the sight of Geena Davis as a trained-to-kill bottle blonde, will subside in coming weeks as the silliness of various plot points and the movie's awkward vacillation between spoof and drama become increasingly apparent. Davis is cast as the perfect suburban mom, a woman named Samantha who is perfect in every way except for the fact that she's an amnesia victim who has no memory of her life before she woke up on a New Jersey beach eight years ago. But the two-bit gumshoe Mitch Henessey (Jackson) she's hired to search for her real identity has gotten a lucky break at just the same time that the people who thought they left her for dead see her picture on TV in a Christmas parade. Faster than you can say Charly Baltimore, Samantha rediscovers her old identity as one of our government's top assassins. There's a wonderful comic chemistry between Davis and Jackson. As the uncouth, low-rent P.I., Jackson is a real kick; he truly has become a godsend to whatever film he finds himself in. The script by top-dollar Hollywood scribe Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout), however, has several dopey moments (for example, why does the movie's fiery climax on the Niagara Falls bridge between Canada and the U.S. not attract the attention of any neutral third-party border cops?) and frequently strains under the weight of its cute and snappy hard-boiled dialogue. The plot itself is a twist on La Femme Nikita, a recent French movie which has already been re-made once in Hollywood. And there are at least two gratuitous instances in which the filmmakers cause Davis to be stripped to her underwear, something the former Victoria's Secret model has done in picture after picture ever since her film debut in Tootsie. Still, the movie is a lot of fun if you don't think about it too much, the stuntwork should satisfy the genre fanatics in the crowd even though it doesn't set any new plateaus, and the rapport between Davis and Jackson is enough to keep the sticklers for realism in abeyance at least until the final credits roll.