An EMS paramedic Frank in the urban slums of Gotham City, is haunted by his injured and dying patients. Over the course of two days and three nights, his world reaches the very brink of spiritual collapse.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what's now showing
Scorsese & Schrader worked one last time in this fever dream about a paramedic struggling to keep his sane while seeing visions of his past. Cage really gives an intense performance of his career along with the supporting cast, also featured a great soundtrack and superb filmmaking. Not to mention there's a few nods to TAXI DRIVER as well. Powerful and underrated gem by Scorsese.
With the exception of the scene with the pregnant woman named Mary (I blame Schrader for this), this movie is one Scorsese's most interesting and experimental. Much like King of Comedy, it shows his hidden talent with black comedy and it recaptures the hypnotic world that made Taxi Driver the legend that it is. It's kinda meandering, but I would argue this is a film you're meant to bask in rather than be riveted by.
One of Scorcese's best: the nightmare-like mood, the labirintic space, the repetitions of the actions in time, all these careful constructed elements translate in fact the psycologically disturbed mind of the protagonist (Nic Cage was never better, except in Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant"), a medic/ambulance driver lost in a city of sin, aiming for redemption through love and the almost religious acceptance of death.
"Saving someone's life is like falling in love. The best drug in the world. For days, sometimes weeks afterwards, you walk the streets, making infinite whatever you see. Once, for a few weeks, I couldn't feel the earth - everything I touched became lighter. Horns played in my shoes. Flowers fell from my pockets. You wonder if you've become immortal, as if you've saved your own life as well."
The once-raw and gritty aesthetic of this waking nightmare in Hell's Kitchen has faded, leaving this a leathery side of well-done. The soundtrack is both monotonous and inappropriate (with certain moments feeling like a Meg Ryan rom-com) and the aesthetic feels like a late-90s music video. That being said, the performances have mostly kept well and the overall poetry of the film still stands.
This film is like Taxi Driver for ambulance drivers but Nicolas Cage isn't on the same level as Robert De Niro. Although Scorsese plays on Cage's craziness to extract a good performance that adds to the rest of the insanity in the film. Another great supporting cast brought to you by the maestro himself.
Scorsese's shot at making a 70s urban grit movie in the 90s. If it had been made 20 years earlier with Bob DeNiro, not Nic Cage, it may have ended up as one of his masterpieces: his style is as rich and visceral as ever, with the theme of "God's lonely man" well developed. On the whole, it feels like Marty needed to find a new way forward—which would soon present itself in a partnership with DiCaprio.