Sunday, July 31, 2016

Double Identities

The Long Kiss Goodnight
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Craig Bierko, Brian Cox, Davis Morse
Released: October 11, 1996

For a movie approaching its 20th anniversary, the action scenes hold up quite nicely and are still thrilling to watch. This was probably the third, maybe fourth time I've seen this movie and I'm still not quite sure what the plot is! All you need to know is that Geena Davis's character has amnesia and Samuel L. Jackson plays a detective trying to help her. When we first meet our main character, her name is Samantha Caine and she tells the audience she was "born eight years ago", that she doesn't remember anything prior to those years. She has an eight-year-old daughter named Caitlin, but doesn't know who the father is and she is seeing a guy named Hal (who is such a nonentity in the movie that I had to look up his name). She lives in a small town in Pennsylvania and teaches at an elementary school. She's the kind of woman who plays Mrs. Claus in the town's Christmas parade, doesn't curse, and scolds the next door neighbor boy for smoking. 

Memories began to trickle back after she suffers from a concussion after she gets into a horrific car accident when she hits a deer and goes flying through the windshield. This is just one of many scenes where something that should kill, or at the very least, break a few bones of one of the characters, happens. But she's just bloodied and is able to stand up and break the neck of the deer who is still alive and suffering. She breaks the neck with such ease that it makes you wonder if she's ever done this before. She has a dream that night where she's looking in the mirror and sees a woman who looks like her, except her hair is blonde and cut shorter and the woman tells her that her name is Charly and they'll soon be meeting. 

One afternoon, Samantha is cutting carrots and isn't doing a very good job as she cuts her finger, then, all of a sudden, she is cutting the carrots like she's a five-star chef and tells her boyfriend and daughter to give her more vegetables to cut. She declares she must have been a chef in her past life and throws a tomato followed by the knife which pins it to the wall. This freaks out her boyfriend and daughter to which she tells them, "Chefs do that." Another day, she takes her daughter ice-skating, but Caitlin falls on her arm and starts crying and Samantha starts talking to her in a gruff voice, in a tone we've never heard her take with her daughter before. She tells her to stop being a baby and that "life is pain - get used to it." Remember this speech because it will come back later.

A one-eyed man who has escaped from jail after seeing Samantha (or, "Samantha" I should say!) on TV during the Christmas parade (seriously, a small town televises that? And some guy in jail is watching that?) comes to her house ready to kill her. The home fight is very reminiscent to the fight Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox have in Kill Bill with a Home Alone-esque fall thrown in there when the guy slips on some M&Ms that have spilled. In a ridiculous scene, Samantha throws her daughter through the hole the guy has just blown through her house with his gun and into her tree house which is several feet away from the house. Luckily his gun has run out of bullets, but he's about to get a large knife when they're fighting in the kitchen, but she's able to stop him with a lemon meringue pie in the face....well, actually it was the glass pie pan that knocked him out and gave him a nasty gash across the face. She gives the man one final blow to the head and breaks his neck (as we saw her do earlier with the deer). We later learn that in her previous life, Samantha, then Charly, was nearly killed by that same man, but stuck a syringe in his eye.

Knowing that her boyfriend (er, fiance, maybe?) and daughter aren't safe until she gets some answers, Samantha hires a private detective named Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) to help her. They head out on a roadtrip with a suitcase that is full of clues to Charly's past. (I'm just gonna refer to her as Charly from now on so it doesn't get too confusing.) There's a phone number she calls and reaches a man named Waldman (Brian Cox) who tells her that there are people out there trying to kill her and wants to meet her at the train station the next morning. When she sees a man approaching her, Charly (still in Samantha mode as Charly wouldn't do something so dumb), stupidly asks the man if he's Dr. Waldman and the guy, obviously NOT Waldman, begins to take out a gun, but fortunately Mitch is armed and she grabs his gun and shoots the guy. The main bad guy of the movie, Timothy (Craig Bierko) is also there with his henchmen who are blocking all the exits when Charly and Mitch try to escape. They run upstairs to the third floor and hide behind a wall, ready to shoot at any bad guys, but their plans are thwarted when a grenade is tossed their way. They run down the hall, the only way out is a window which Charly shoots at. Then, as they're falling, she shoots at the frozen lake below them. It's a cool action scene, but highly implausible. First of all, the fact that she was able to use a gun while falling from a third-story building? Please! Second of all, the fact that when they fell in the ice-covered lake, they were lucky to come up in the same spot. Third of all, hypothermia didn't seem to be a factor for them as they get out and run back to their car. And there are scenes that are a lot more insane than this one!

As they're still running from the bad guys, the real Waldman drives up to them and tells them to get into the car. He tells Charly the truth about her past: that she's an assassin working for the U.S. Government. They decide to ditch Waldman when Mitch smartly brings up that he was the only one who knew they were going to be at the train station and how did those guys who attacked them knew they would be there? To be honest, I was never sure if Waldman was a good guy or bad guy because he doesn't last very long in this movie. Hmmm, I guess I just answered my own question as he is killed by a definite bad guy.

Charly and Mitch find another clue that leads them to a man named Luke (David Morse) who Charly believes was once her fiance and is most likely the father of her daughter. He seems like a nice enough guy, but surprise! He's one of the bad guys! The reason Charly has such vivid memories of him is because he was a target and she learned a lot of things about him. Something like that. Waldman, who found out where they went, comes to warn them, but more evil henchmen get to them before they can escape. They knock out Charly, kill Waldman, and lock up Mitch. When Charly wakes up, she's tied to a water wheel which Luke uses to torture her for prolonged amounts of time under the water to get information out of her, but on her third trip under the water (which she insists on taking, so you think that would have been his first clue not to take her under the water again!), she gets out of the rope her hands are tied in and grabs the gun out of the now dead Waldman who is now under the water and when she comes back up, she shoots Luke and rescues Mitch.

This is around the time Charly fully starts to emerge and all traces of the goody-goody Samantha are completely gone. She physically transfers herself by cutting her long curly brown hair and dying it blonde and putting on gobs of makeup which looks absolutely ridiculous. I like the hair, though.

There's this scene where she has to get back to Mitch fast because the bad guys have come upon him and attacking him, so she grabs a pair of skates and starts skating across a pond with a gun strapped to her back. I'm sorry, but in the time it would have taken her to put on and lace up those skates, she wouldn't have been able to get there in time. I also could have sworn that this was the movie where a bad guy dies from getting an ice skate blade across the throat. I know there's a movie out there where a woman escaping from a bad guy is on skates and picks up a child and swings the child around to slice the bad guy's throat with the blade of the ice skates. What movie am I thinking of???

It turns out the father of Charly's daughter is Timothy (guess Charly had to go undercover and get really close to him...eww...). He kidnaps the young girl and locks both her and Charly in a large freezer and turns down the temperature. In a very MacGuyver type move, Charly takes Caitlin's doll, which is filled with gasoline (don't ask) and tries to light a fire with some utensil, but can't, until her daughter gives her a package of matches which she has because she lights a candle every night. Seriously, why did she let her mother try to light a fire for five minutes when she had matches at her disposal? Caitlin asks her mother if they're going to die and I did get a bit of a chuckle when Charly replies with "No, sweetie, they are" and lights the fire which explodes the entire building. It also knocks Mitch, who is tied to a chair and is about to get shot by Timothy, out of a second story building window and through a billboard sign and he hits a tree. He must have flown at least 100 feet. That should have EASILY killed him, or, at best, broken a bunch of bones. But nope! He is able to stand up and walk away. WTF? He only has a few scratches and there's blood running down his face.

So there's a bomb in a big semi truck and as Charly and Caitlin escape, they are ambushed by the bad guys and Charly tells her daughter to go somewhere safe, so she runs and hides in the truck with the bomb. Charly ends up driving the truck out of the town and there's more excitement as she kills more bad guys and tries to save her daughter. Which she manages to do, but is so exhausted and can't move anymore after she tells her daughter to run away from there. Caitlin does leave, but comes back and gives Charly the exact same speech her mother gave her when they went ice-skating and uses the line, "Life is pain." This awakens something in Charly and she gets up to finish the job of killing Timothy. Let's just say the bomb does its part in killing him.

The movie ends with a nod to Thelma and Louise (which is so much better than this movie, but perhaps it's unfair to compare the two!) as we see Geena Davis driving a convertible and wearing a headscarf. We also see her living a happy life with her boyfriend (probably now husband) and daughter. This movie has some great action scenes, but I found myself not caring about the story.

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