Bringing Out the Dead

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Bringing Out the Dead
Bringing out the dead.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Screenplay byPaul Schrader
Based onBringing Out the Dead
by Joe Connelly
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byThelma Schoonmaker
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed by
Release date
  • October 22, 1999 (1999-10-22) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$32 million[2]
Box office$16.8 million[3]

Bringing Out the Dead is a 1999 American psychological drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Paul Schrader, based on the novel by Joe Connelly[4][5] and starring Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, and Tom Sizemore. Bringing Out the Dead was released on October 22, 1999 in the United States and was also the final film to be released on LaserDisc.[6]


In Manhattan during the early 1990s, Frank Pierce is a burned-out hospital paramedic who works the graveyard shift in a two-man ambulance team with various partners.

Usually exhausted and depressed, Frank has not saved any patients in months and begins to see the ghosts of those lost, especially a homeless adolescent girl named Rose whose face appears on the bodies of others. Frank and his first partner Larry respond to a call by the family of a man named Mr. Burke who has entered cardiac arrest. Frank befriends Burke's distraught daughter Mary, a former junkie. Frank discovers Mary was childhood friends with Noel, a brain-damaged drug addict and delinquent who is frequently sent to the hospital.

After a few minor calls, Frank and Larry respond to a shooting where he tends to one of the surviving victims. Frank notices two vials of a drug named "Red Death", a new form of heroin that is plaguing the streets of New York City, roll out from the victim's sleeve which implies it was a shooting by a rival drug gang. While in the back of the ambulance with Frank and Noel, the victim goes into denial and repents his drug dealing ways but dies before they can reach the hospital.

The next day, Frank is paired with his second partner Marcus, an eccentric and religious man. The two respond to the call of a man in a goth club who is reported to be in cardiac arrest. Frank diagnoses that he is, in fact, suffering from a heroin overdose caused by Red Death. As Frank injects the man with Narcan, Marcus starts a prayer circle with the baffled club-goers and just as his preaching climaxes, the overdosed man becomes conscious again.

On the way back to the hospital, Frank swings by Mary's apartment building to tell her that her father's condition is improving. Frank and Marcus then respond to a call by a young Puerto Rican man whose girlfriend is giving birth to twins despite his claims they are both virgins, calling it a miracle. Frank and Marcus rush the two infants and mother to the hospital, where Marcus brings the mother and healthy twin to the maternity ward, while Frank attempts to revive the smaller twin with the hospital staff. The hospital is unable to revive the smaller twin. After the call, in a moment of desperation, Frank starts drinking and Marcus soon joins in, crashing the ambulance into a parked car.

The following morning, Frank sees a stressed Mary leaving the hospital and follows her to an apartment block; Mary tells Frank that she's going to visit a friend and he escorts her to the room. After a while, Frank goes to the room and barges his way in the door, only to discover it's in fact a drug house run by a friendly dealer named Cy Coates. Mary has turned back to drugs to cope with her father's fluctuating condition and Frank tries to get her to leave but he is dissuaded by Cy who offers Frank some pills.

In another moment of desperation, Frank swallows drugs and begins to hallucinate, seeing more ghosts of patients and the moment when he tried to save Rose. Once over, he grabs Mary and carries her out of the building. While visiting a comatose Burke in the hospital, Frank starts hearing Burke's voice in his head, telling Frank to let him die but he resuscitates Burke instead.

In his third shift, Frank is paired with Tom Wolls, an enthusiastic man with violent tendencies. At this point Frank is slowly beginning to lose his mind - while tending to a suicidal junkie, Frank manages to scare the patient away. The pair are then called to Cy's drug den where another shooting has occurred where they find Cy impaled on a railing, having attempted to jump back to safety. Frank holds onto Cy as the emergency services police cut the railing but both are nearly flung off the edge before being pulled back up. Cy then thanks Frank for saving his life - the first patient Frank has saved in months.

Afterwards, Frank agrees to help Tom beat up Noel but Frank is distracted and Noel flees into an area beneath the houses. Tom and Frank chase after Noel where Frank starts to hallucinate again, snapping out of it just as he comes upon Tom beating Noel with his baseball bat. During his second visit to Burke, the voice again pleads to let him die and this time Frank removes Burke's breathing apparatus, causing him to enter cardiac arrest and ending his life. Frank then heads to Mary's apartment to inform her where Mary seems to accept her father's death. Frank is invited in, falling asleep at Mary's side.



Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 72% based on 109 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The site's consensus reads, "Stunning and compelling. Scorsese and Cage succeed at satisfying the audience."[7] On Metacritic the film has a score of 70% based on reviews from 34 critics.[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C-" on scale of A to F.[9]

Roger Ebert gave it a perfect four-star rating, writing, "To look at Bringing Out the Dead—to look, indeed, at almost any Scorsese film—is to be reminded that film can touch us urgently and deeply."[10]

Box office[edit]

Bringing Out the Dead debuted at #4 in 1,936 theatres with a weekend gross of $6,193,052. The film grossed $16.7 million against a production budget of $32 million, making it a box office bomb.[citation needed]

Years later, Scorsese reflected to Ebert that Bringing Out the Dead "failed at the box office, and was rejected by a lot of the critics." Yet he added: "I had 10 years of ambulances. My parents, in and out of hospitals. Calls in the middle of the night. I was exorcising all of that. Those city paramedics are heroes -- and saints, they're saints. I grew up next to the Bowery, watching the people who worked there, the Salvation Army, Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker Movement, all helping the lost souls. They're the same sort of people."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bringing Out the Dead (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 15, 1999. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  2. ^ "'Bringing out' Scorsese". Interviews. October 21, 1999. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  3. ^ "Bringing Out the Dead (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Washburn, Lindy (February 27, 2000). "To Hell And Back in an Ambulance – Author Chronicles A Medic's Wild Ride Between Death And Saving Lives". The Record. Bergen County, New Jersey. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  5. ^ McClurg, Jocelyn (March 1, 1998). "'Bringing Out The Dead' Vivid, Out Of Control". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Conn. p. G.2. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  6. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Bringing Out the Dead [LV335643-WS]". Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Bring Out the Dead Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  8. ^ "Bringing Out the Dead". Metacritic. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  9. ^ "BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999) C-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  10. ^ "Bringing Out the Dead". October 22, 1999. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 12, 2004). "Howard's end: Scorsese and 'The Aviator' | Interviews".

External links[edit]