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The poignancy of a human soul that chooses slow self-destruction rather than shutting itself off to the suffering of others.


By David Bruce
David Bruce
Directed by
Martin Scorsese

Nicolas Cage: Frank Pierce
Ving Rhames: Marcus
Tom Sizemore: Walls
John Goodman

Written by
Paul Schrader
Joseph Connelly (novel)

From Touchstone / Paramount

     This film teams director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader again. Their earlier works, 'Raging Bull' and 'The Last Temptation of Christ', created sensations.

     Paul Schrader is an evangelical Christian who is not afraid to tackle difficult spiritual issues as he did in 'Touch.' His biblical themes can be seen in 'Close Encounters of the Thrid Kind' (uncredited) and in 'The Mosquito Coast' (tagline: He planned a paradise. He created a Hell). Schrader is currently in production on a film called 'Forever Mine' (tagline: Give All To Love).

     Martin Scorsese, who has a Catholic background, has become a legend in his own time. His directorial work includes 'Casino' (1995), 'The Age of Innocence' (1993), 'Cape Fear' (1991), and 'GoodFellas' (1990). In a recent issue of 'Civilization' Scorsese discussed how his early memories of religious art have worked their way into his films.

     Joe Connelly for nearly a decade rushed from emergency to emergency as a paramedic in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City. He wrote this novel "to purge, perhaps redeem, the torment of his experiences in the trenches with the dying and the barely living. Connelly seems to be a born writer, for this first novel makes brilliant use of unflinching realism, dark and brittle humor, a faint whiff of the supernatural, and, above all, the poignancy of a human soul that chooses slow self-destruction rather than shutting itself off to the suffering of others" (

Joe was once called Father Frank because of his desire to save lives. He lives with the 'ghosts' of those he couldn't save.  This drives him to feel burnout but he perseveres.


bringing out the dead
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001
From: brian hunt

i recently saw the movie "bringing out the dead" with nicolas cage. at first i did not really know what it was trying to say to me, so i watched it again, and realized that, at least to me, it represents Jesus' decention into hell. if you watch it, pay attention to the days, it will say what day it is, and pay attention to what n. cage does on those days. there is a part, on friday, when cage takes a pill given to him by a drug pusher, which begins his real journey into his hell. after the last scene, with the peace, and white glow of cage, he seems to represent Christ ascending into Heaven. perhaps all of this chaotic synopsis will make more sense after the movie. if you would like, i will email you with much greater detail from the movie. but you are a very smart, and busy, man, so i don't want to take up much of your time. if you need to respond, i am more likely to get it if you God bless you and enjoy the movie...sometime down the road.
peace, brian hunt

Response: Yes send what you have I would be very interested -David

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000
From: Richard

you fail to grasp the true meaning of the movie, that it is so real that it represents the truth in life. that as one becomes more and more driven by desperation, there begins a convergence. things stop mattering. the doctor becomes the patient. (e.g. Cage attempting to medicate himself) he who heals wounds shall inflict them. (cage's partner's beating of Noel) and even the living will die, and the dead shall live again. (rose) this move expounds the fact that, while we attempt to compartmentalize life and death, for all our might, there is no difference.

Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000
From: Brent

I really don't know how to say this and not have it come off as being offensive, but I'm afraid you have missed the entire point of the movie. It is not a allegory of hell, what it is happens to be a very good portrayal of paramedic burn out. I Happen to be a paramedic, and a devout Christian, when I saw the movie I was one of a handful of people in the theater, as I looked around I saw what was happening, these people had come to see a Martin Scorsese film and instead were seeing the raw heart of EMS in a way few people outside of the business could possibly understand. This movie is one of the most realistic portrayals of burnout I have ever seen, the descent into madness of Frank Pierce was very real, I have seen it in the faces of my co-workers and friends. His character is one of a man who started out wanting, needing to help his fellow man, to do the good work, but day after day year after year it was the same thing, doing your best never making a difference. The "Hell " that he was going through, was the portrayal of him loosing his battle to care, to keep it more than "just a job". What happened to him happens to a great many people in EMS, and Martin Scorsese showed it in such a way as not to glorify but to force the viewer to share the pain and confusion. Every movie review I have seen of this film I have seen has been negative, that is by everyone in the news media and film business. The emergency Services community has heralded it as a must see, every paramedic I have talked to who has seen it have told me they intend to buy it, most Fire and EMS stations are waiting to purchase it as well. The movie was a masterpiece to a very select community, and I think the movie will forever be misunderstood except by the people who have to live that job. So as you see the film, remember the people who live through the madness, and pray for those of us facing that burnout, may God forever keep us safe and compassionate. Brent Davenport EMT-P FTO

Subject: Review posted by Kris
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000
From: KRIS

I saw the movie also and read the book as well. At some point I think that attention needs to be paid to REALITY. We can look at works of art for symbolism or religious significance but at some point there has to be a tie to the real world. If you go to movies to be happy then good for you. I don't think that this movie had anything to do with hell because we all know that hell has got to be far worse than anything Frank Pierce saw and was forced to deal with. In his job Frank sacrificed himself to whatever the nights work brought him, what he felt he was meant to do and he had no choice. If anything Frank's boss, (who refused to fire him) was much like I believe God himself to be. Will he ever give up on or allow one of his sheep to quit? Use your Bible swelled head for a change. There is an awful lot here that you don't see and you don't need for me to point out to you. This is a positive movie for Christians that is set in circumstances that most Christians are unfortunately unable to relate to. The late night streets of N.Y.C. are not mailto: of God or those who work for him.

Subject: Depressing but moving
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000
From: Kris
I waited to see this film until it hit the dollar theater. I sat through it even though it was tempting to get up and leave at a number of points. (I sat towards the rear of the theater and a number of patrons did leave mid-way through the picture.)

The film was basically an allegorical variation on the opening sections of C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce - a portrayal of a purgatory/hell where virtually every shred of grace, hope and joy is gone. While intimations of redemption flicker in the background, it is a pallid world - even in the rare segments of daylight - where the line between the still living and the dead seems faint: the dead are antagonistic of the living and the living often long to die. Even Frank Pierce's repeated and bizarrely futile attempts to be fired from his paramedic job and his abortive attempt to quit point to a hopeless and joyless trap lit only by his vague memories of the unspeakable ecstasy of occasionally saving a life.

It is a world of self-centeredness and idol worship. Even the coffee shop that the drivers frequent is called "Toro del Oro" - Spanish for "Bull of Gold" - a reference to the Israelites' act of rebellion.

So all the people took off their [gold] earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." (Exodus 32:3-5)

The few direct references to God or religion are basically bizarre: a tiny Asian nun rants down a street spouting weird and incoherent warnings and wearing an aborted fetus around her neck, one of the drivers leads a group of goth youngsters in a mock prayer to Jesus to revive their fellow youth who has OD'ed.

A depressing movie, and basically a good image of what (emotionally at least) hell may be like.

Kris Childress
My response: Yes it was depressing. Why the writer censored God in the script is amazing to me.