Sunday, January 2, 2011

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996)

Starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson and Brian Cox
Written by Shane Black
Directed by Renny Harlin

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" is one of those movies that's stayed on the periphery of my radar for quite some time.  I've been a fan of Shane Black for a while, his having penned "Lethal Weapon," "Last Action Hero" and appearing as an actor in "Predator," but I'd never seen this particular entry in his resume until it showed up on Netflix Instant Watch.

Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) is a simple school teacher in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she is raising her young daughter, Caitlin (Yvonne Zima).  But Caine is a mystery: she can't remember anything about her past earlier than eight years prior, when she awoke one day covered in wounds and two months pregnant with her daughter.  Over the years, she's hired various private detectives to attempt to figure out who she used to be, but they all came up empty... until now.

One of those detectives, Mitch Hennessey (Samuel L. Jackson) comes across a lead when his assistant tracks down Samantha's old landlord, who still had a box of her personal effects.  At the same time, Samantha appears on television as Mrs. Claus in the town's Christmas parade.  Unfortunately, some bad, bad folks also see her on television as well.  Soon enough, Samantha finds that she and her daughter are in mortal danger when an escaped convict tracks her down and attacks her in her home.  She kills the man using combat techniques she had no idea she possessed, and decides to go on the road with Mitch to find the truth.

They first contact a man named Nathan Waldman (Brian Cox) who informs her that her real name is Charlene Baltimore, and that she was an assassin for the US government.  Thinking that this is some kind of a setup, Mitch and Samantha escape from Waldman only to be captured by CIA operatives who are planning something called "Operation: Honeymoon" which has something to do with Samantha.  Upon escaping once more, Samantha's original personality is restored during the trauma of her torture at the hands of the CIA.  Determined to get these assassins off her back, figure out what Operation: Honeymoon is (and stop it) and save Mitch and her daughter.

I was a bit disappointed in "The Long Kiss Goodnight."  It's not a bad film, but it's not all that great, either.  The biggest disappointment is that the action sequences are pretty short, and few and far between.  When they do come, they're generally pretty cool, but they don't last very long and there are lengthy stretches between them that don't really amount to much.  The script is jokey, as a Shane Black script would be, but that's not enough to balance out the fact that the movie just feels too long.

The jokes are pretty funny, though.  The cast is definitely up for it.  Geena Davis makes a surprisingly competent action heroine, handling both the snarky wit and killer moves required of her character.  The interesting twist is that Samuel L. Jackson's character, usually such a badass, is mostly pretty worthless in a fight.  But the two have good chemistry together, and they both get lots of great lines to throw back and forth.

I don't have too much else to say about this film, I suppose, which is really the worst thing that I can say about it.  It doesn't amount to much.  For all its length and attempts at labyrinthine conspiracy, it feels slight.  Renny Harlin isn't a talented enough director to make the film seem big or important enough, so the only thing that really sticks with me is the performances of its cast.  Still, it's not like I wouldn't ever watch it again... I just don't think it's destined to be a favorite like "Predator" or "Lethal Weapon."

See Also:
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang