The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT is my favorite bad movie of the year, even 
better than BARB WIRE, DIABOLIQUE, or, dare I say the name?, MARY 
REILLY.  Sure, it's as fowl as any turkey of times past, but this 
mega-million dollar Renny Harlin-Geena Davis-Shane Black bomb is 
never off-putting.  That is to say, it's awful fun.  The major 
misstep is the casting of Mrs. Renny Harlin as an amnesiac house-
wife who awakens one day to discover that she's really a former 
anti-assassin for the U.S. Government.  Geena Davis has the pumped-
up physique and, yes, the same wide-eyed exuberance that passed for 
characterization in CUTTHROAT ISLAND.  What's missing, though, is 
the *steel* behind the sheen.  You just don't believe that she 
wants to kick your ass.  (Memo to Mr. Harlin:  in the interest of 
preserving not one but two careers, please stop attempting to cast 
your wife as an action hero.  She's about as well-suited to that 
role as Demi Moore is at playing strippers.  Just. don't. do it.)

Compounding the confounding is a story structure that reveals her  
secret at the very beginning of the movie, I mean RIGHT THERE IN 
THE OPENING CREDITS.  (Arrive late?  No problem!  The filmmakers 
also include a scene or two or three of the bad guys getting ready 
to get Geena.)  This "tipping of the hand" is a 100-proof mystery-
killer-- the audience ends up knowing too much too soon and that 
knowledge drains the suspense right out of the story.  The rest of 
the movie is reduced to red-stained catch-up, with Harlin trying 
his hardest to generate the tension that should've been there from 
the beginning.  Instead of intrigue we get pumped-up peril, very 
little of which excites the way it should:  Mommy ambushed at home, 
Mommy sprayed with bullets in a bus station, Mommy hitting a deer 
and wrecking the car on her way home from a Christmas party.  (Has 
anyone figured out the purpose of that last scene?  Other than the 
guilty pleasure of seeing someone snap Bambi's neck?)

Thank God for Samuel L. Jackson.  His low-rent private dick is the 
perfect foil to Le Femme Nondescript.  In addition to adding some 
much-needed humanity to the movie, he's the most colorful character 
in the cast.  Tearing into writer Shane Black's delicious dialogue, 
Jackson walks away with nearly every scene, except when upstaged by 
Brian Cox (CHAIN REACTION, THE GLIMMER MAN).  The original Hannibal 
Lecter (look it up) submits a priceless monologue about a dog and 
where it likes to lick itself.  (BTW, has anyone transcribed that 
exchange?  Please e-mail, if so.)  The Brit is gone before long, 
but Jackson is on hand for the duration and he's so fun to watch, 
even when reduced to little more than a spectator to the various 
explosive set-pieces that get progressively bigger, bolder, and 
brain-dead.  After all, this *is* a movie by Renny Harlin, the guy 
who directed CLIFFHANGER and DIE HARD 2, which means you can expect 
a basement explosion that's pretty cool and one whammy of a tanker-
truck wreck, with Davis hanging-ten a la Arnold in TERMINATOR 2.  
The final fireball is the best and almost beats the pyrotechnics in 
INDEPEDENCE DAY.  Not bad for a bad movie.  (Rated "R"/~125 min.)

Grade: D+

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as Say Goodnight Geena

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros