Kiss of Death (1995 film)

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Kiss of Death
Kiss of death ver2.jpg
Promotional film poster
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Produced by Susan Hoffman
Barbet Schroeder
Written by Ben Hecht
Charles Lederer
Eleazar Lipsky
Richard Price
Starring David Caruso
Nicolas Cage
Samuel L. Jackson
Helen Hunt
Ving Rhames
Stanley Tucci
Kathryn Erbe
Michael Rapaport
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Luciano Tovoli
Edited by Lee Percy
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • April 21, 1995 (1995-04-21) (U.S.)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $14,942,422 (domestic)[2]

Kiss of Death is a 1995 crime thriller film starring David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicolas Cage, Helen Hunt, Ving Rhames, and Stanley Tucci, directed by Barbet Schroeder.

The film is a very loosely based remake of the 1947 film noir classic of the same name that starred Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, and Richard Widmark. It was screened out of competition at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[3] Like the original Kiss of Death, the film was released by 20th Century Fox.


Jimmy Kilmartin is an ex-con living in Astoria in the New York City borough of Queens, trying to stay clean and raising a daughter with his wife Bev. They are both recovering alcoholics. Bev leaves Jimmy alone to go to an AA meeting. While she is gone, Jimmy is awoken by his cousin Ronnie who is in desperate need of a driver to help him move some stolen cars. Jimmy tries to eject Ronnie, knowing that he could go back to prison just for being seen with him. Ronnie's right ring finger is broken, and he confesses that if Jimmy does not help him move the cars, Little Junior Brown will kill him.

Little Junior Brown is an asthmatic psychopath. Enraged that they are so behind schedule, he insists that Ronnie move the four trucks full of stolen cars in a caravan, instead of staggering them to avoid detection. The caravan draws the attention of the police, and when they arrive at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to unload the cars, the police arrive. During the arrests, Jimmy's passenger shoots at the police. The bullet goes through Jimmy's hand and just below the right eye of Detective Calvin Hart.

The lawyer for the Brown crime family, Jack Gold, promises Jimmy that Bev will be taken care of if he takes the rap without naming his co-conspirators. Ronnie shorts Bev on her allowance, giving her only $150 of the $400 a week that the Brown's intended for her. Bev agrees to work for Ronnie at his chop shop just south of Shea Stadium. On her first day, she witnesses Ronnie beating a man who tried to sell him a stolen car. She drinks a Rolling Rock, and goes with Ronnie to Baby Cakes, the strip club owned by the Browns. She drinks vodka and wakes the next morning in Ronnie's bed. Horrified at her relapse, she rushes out of Ronnie's house and steals his car. She drives head-on into a semi-truck in the street and dies.

Given a supervised release for her funeral, Jimmie listens to Ronnie's lame explanation for why Bev died in his car. Bev's sister Rosie explains that she never returned home the night before her death. Convinced of Ronnie's complicity in Bev's death, Jimmy agrees to turn state's witness. He names all of the people involved in the Navy Yards fiasco, except Ronnie. When the cops arrest everyone but Ronnie, the Brown's are convinced that he is the snitch. Junior Brown beats Ronnie to death in his office at the shop.

Several years pass, and the District Attorney approaches Jimmy again about snitching on the Browns. Still in Sing Sing, Jimmy negotiates for a pardon and a job that he would enjoy. He and Rosie get married, but he hides his informant duties from her.

Det. Hart meets with Jimmy at a Chinese restaurant and informs him that his target is actually a drug dealer named Omar, who gets weapons and cars from Little Junior Brown. Jimmy dons a wire and returns to work for the Browns with an initial assignment of boosting cars. After their rounds, Jimmy's crew heads to Baby Cakes where he sees Little Junior for the first time in years. Little Junior is distraught over the recent death of his father, and he offers Jimmy his condolences over Bev's death. Little Junior takes Jimmy to a meeting with Omar.

Jimmy is unable to sustain the charade with Rosie. Eventually, Little Junior takes Jimmy to another meeting with Omar, whom he kills. Later, Omar's crew throws Jimmy into a car and drives him to a meeting, where he learns that Omar was an undercover DEA agent. The DA and the DEA use Jimmy's tape of the killing to arrest Little Junior. When Little Junior is out on bail, he abducts Jimmy's daughter to send him a message. Jimmy finds his daughter and uses a tape of the DA's corrupt threats as leverage to escape the situation. The film ends with Jimmy getting into an Explorer that Little Junior gave him, to drive away from the city with Rosie and his daughter.




Many critics and moviegoers felt the film was not as powerfully charged as the original 1947 classic, but the performance of actors, particularly of Nicolas Cage were highly praised. Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times called Cage as "one of the few American actors who gets more interesting from film to film", adding that he "comes close to kidnaping the picture as Little Junior, a pumped-up but asthmatic thug who, like King Kong, is a gorilla with a wistful air about him."[4]

Roger Ebert found the film uncompelling, awarding it only 2 out of 4 stars. Though he also considered the character of Little Junior "overwritten", Ebert did praise Nicolas Cage's performance, calling Cage a "real movie actor" who "plays the role with style and bravado."[5]

The Washington Post wrote that Cage "dominates the camera, stealing scenes by the sheer intensity of his inimitable strangeness" and makes the movie "worth seeing".[6]

The movie currently holds a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews with the consensus: "An outstanding ensemble cast propels Kiss of Death, a noir-ish crime thriller that's slick and big on atmosphere, even if its script may only provide sporadic bursts of tension."

David Caruso was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst New Star for his work in both this movie and Jade, but lost the award to Elizabeth Berkley for Showgirls.

Home Media Release[edit]


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