The Long Kiss Goodnight

on October 11, 1996 by Christine James
   Although director Renny Harlin's "Cutthroat Island" failed to turn his wife Geena Davis into an action heroine, she's definitely received full Linda Hamiltonization in this Harlin-helmed, better-than-average pulse-racer. Davis plays Samantha, an amnesiac whose earliest memory goes back only eight years, when she found herself washed up on a beach, two months pregnant, and with no key to her identity. Having come to terms with the fact that she'll never remember her old life, she's settled into domestic tranquility with her daughter and fiance<197>though she does occasionally wonder how she got so many scars all over her body. Then a blow to the head from a car accident triggers fragmented, frightening slivers of recollection. At the same time, one of dozens of private detectives she had hired over the years stumbles onto a lead concerning her past. Samuel L. Jackson plays the low-rent, likable ne'er-do-well P.I., who gets more than he bargained for when he helps Samantha unlock the past. It turns out Samantha is really government assassin Charly Baltimore, whose fearless, lethal persona is 180 degrees from Samantha's muffin-baking schoolteacher. When Charly's many enemies learn she's alive and crawl out of the woodwork to kill her, Samantha is understandably terrified, but the hunted becomes the hunter when the placid PTA member begins acting on reflex, with all her ingenious sleuthing abilities, weapons expertise and formidable chop-and-kick powers rapidly resurging.
   With her strong screen presence, striking looks and impressive six-foot frame, Davis is a natural as an action hero, while her soft yet quirky femininity--the main trait of most of her filmic characters over the past decade--still gets its showcase. The dual role couldn't reflect better the Two Faces of Geena. The movie itself is at its best during the adrenaline-pumping scenes when Samantha transmogrifies into Charly and kicks some bad-guy ass. Harlin, whose forte is the more-bang-for-your-buck category, doesn't let moviegoers down with regard to epic-caliber fight sequences that involve huge explosions, MacGyver ingenuity and preposterously complex and violent comeuppances--the lack of authoritative intervention with which does beg the question, "Is there a cop in the entire world?" Shane Black's $4 million script does not fully live up to the story's idea, the dynamic between Davis and Jackson doesn't really click, and no one is afraid of the smirky, charmless, cartoonishly conscienceless twentysomething villain (Craig Bierko)--just annoyed. But, as an actioner with the requisite amounts of humor and heart, "The Long Kiss Goodnight" is a lot of fun. Starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson and Craig Bierko. Directed by Renny Harlin. Written by Shane Black. Produced by Renny Harlin, Stephanie Austin and Shane Black. A New Line release. Action. Rated R for a substantial amount of strong bloody violence, and for strong language. Running time: 120 min.
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