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IN SHORT: You cannot stop the Juggernaut unless you rip off its head.
Early in Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight there is a reference to the Marvel comic book heroes The X-Men, whose enemy (the Juggernaut) could only be stopped if you ripped off his helmet and attacked the frail psyche within. In The Long Kiss Goodnight, the helmet is amnesia and the psyche within is one hundred eighty degrees the opposite of frail.
When Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) washed up on the beach eight years ago, she was a tabula rasa. Two months pregnant, she had no idea who she was or what she had previously done. Samantha gave birth to a little girl, found a husband and a new job as a teacher, and spent her spare bucks on detectives trying to unlock the secrets of her past. But private dicks cost big bucks, and the money ran out, leaving Sam with a bottom-of-the-barrel ex-cop gumshoe named Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson).
Being the bottom of the barrel means that, as in all the best flicks, he finds a significant clue. That clue leads to a tale that is thoroughly unpredictable; more violent than any other action flick I've seen this year; and incredibly funny as well. The Harlin/Davis team did not roll over and play dead after the fiasco that was Cutthroat Island. With Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black, they've produced a juggernaut of a flick that delivers everything you want from an action movie.
In the Samantha persona, Davis is an average looking, self- deprecating wife and mother. She is aware and accepting of her amnesiac condition, even to the point of making jokes about it. But as events move to bring out her other side, eventually known as Charly Baltimore, Davis' eyes take on a glint that is downright unnerving and scary. If the audience I sat with shifted uneasily when Samantha started tossing knives around the heads of her husband and daughter, that tension turned to explosive laughter when the Samantha character exclaims "I know what I was! I was a chef!"
But, of course, she wasn't.
Once the amnesiac veil is pierced, the persona that is Charly proves to be an ace killer with gun or knife or bare hands. With her long hair cropped short and dyed blonde to boot, is the cigarette smoking and foul mouthed Charly a second persona or the real deal?
You won't be sure even at the end. Every time a new piece of the puzzle is revealed, it is almost immediately contradicted.
Samuel L. Jackson, as Mitch, perfects the kind of sidekick role last seen in Die Hard with a Vengeance. Harlan perhaps sensed that the audience would not care to see Davis take the kind of physical beating that Bruce Willis did in those flicks, so Jackson is the film's punching bag. Davis suffers the more "feminine" tortures -- freezing, drowning, outrunning exploding grenades and armor piercing bullets -- the usual. The requisite nasty stuff is saved for the climax.
Craig Bierko is the adequate bad guy, named Timothy. The character isn't tremendously developed and Bierko's read isn't nearly psycho enough to be evil. But it is good enough to keep everything interesting.
The audience members I spoke with after the show were unanimous in their praise. The highest compliment came from one woman who said that the film was "better than [Schwarzenegger's] True Lies." Cranky agrees.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Long Kiss Goodnight, he would have paid . . .
Honestly? I didn't expect to like The Long Kiss Goodnight as much as I did. But I did.
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