The Film: The Long Kiss Goodnight(1996) Buy it from CHUD!
The Principles: Renny Harlin (Director). Shane “HIS ROYAL MOTHERFUCKIN’ HIGHNESS” Black (Screenwriter). Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Craig Bierko, Patrick Malahide, David Morse, Brian Cox, Yvonne Zima, Tom Amandes, G.D. Spradlin, Alan North, Melina Kanakeredes, etc.
The Premise: Through a various series of events, an amnesiac homemaker finds out that she was a government assassin in her “previous life” and her former coworkers are now out to finish her off upon discovering that she is alive.
Is It Good?: Absolutely. While neither my favorite work of Shane Black nor my favorite Renny Harlin effort, this is a great ’90s actioner. While I wouldn’t quite call it underrated anymore, given it’s increasingly elevated status year after year, I would definitely say it is still underappreciated by the mainstream to this day. I think part of this animosity still lingers from the disappointing Cutthroat Island (another Harlin/Davis actioner) from the previous year. This is and was a mistake on the part of anyone whose mind has taken that route.
The action is heightened and occasionally over-the-top, the cast is game for everything thrown their way, and Renny Harlin could shoot a damn good action movie back in the day. While it may not be the best of its age group, it definitely stands out in its own way, particularly the dialogue. No one does smart-ass remarks like Shane Black and this film is chock full of ’em. Some of the FX shots have not held up well in the years since, but none of it is enough to derail the film. In many ways this was Harlin’s last hurrah. His work since has been a slow march of diminishing returns, though many still contain at least semi-worthwhile material. Except The Covenant. Fuck that film.
The underperformance of both this and the aforementioned Cutthroat Island effectively killed Geena Davis’ career, which is a shame. Two failed TV shows and a handful of kids movies aside, she hasn’t done much of anything before she make Bierko die screaming in 1996. Here’s hoping that she can find her niche again one day, no matter the genre. Come back, Geena! You are missed.
Is It Worth A Look?: Definitely, especially if you are looking for a holiday-set alternative to the usual Christmas cinematic fare. Besides, if you are going to switch things up between viewings of seasonal material, you might as well stay festive while you do it! Are you are a fan of old school action, witty dialogue, and/or badass feminine warriors? Already pop in Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Batman Returns, and/or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service over the past few weeks to get your X-mas action fix? Then give The Long Kiss Goodnight a whirl. Whether it is your first time viewing or a long overdue revisit, I think you’ll find that it hits the spot. Close out Christmas Eve with a bang and give this baby a whirl!
Random Anecdotes:The initial cut of the film had Sam Jackson’s character biting the dust. After test audiences reacted negatively to this, Harlin changed his fate.
This is Renny Harlin’s personal favorite of his own work and he’s recently talked up the desire to make a sequel in the near future. The intended plot reportedly involves Sam Jackson and the now-grown daughter of Davis’ character mixed up in violent hijinx. Best of luck, Renny!
Another Christmas-set Black tale. See also: Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man III, etc.
Despite paying an exorbitant amount of dough for Shane Black’s script, the studio still had a handful of script doctors rework and rewrite it. Oh how shocking! That aside, it’s still pretty easy to tell which lines are his.
Cinematic Soulmates: Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Kill Bill: Volume One (2003), Kill Bill: Volume Two (2004), and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005).