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 and written by Paul Schrader, based on the novel of the same name by Joe Connelly.[4][5] It stars Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, and Tom Sizemore. The plot depicts the life of a depressed New York City paramedic (Cage).

The film was released in the United States on October 22, 1999 by Paramount Pictures in North America, while it was released internationally by Touchstone Pictures through Buena Vista International. It was the final film to be released on LaserDisc in the United States.[6]


In Manhattan, paramedic Frank Pierce suffering from depression and occupational burnout having not saved any patients in months and begins to hallucinate the ghosts of those lost. One night, Frank and his partner Larry respond to a call by the family of Mr. Burke who has entered cardiac arrest. There, Frank befriends Burke's distraught daughter Mary, a former junkie, and discovers Mary was friends with Noel, a drug addict and delinquent who is frequently sent to the hospital.

After a few minor calls, Frank and Larry respond to the aftermath of a shooting, where Frank notices two vials of "Red Death" heroin roll out from a surviving victim's sleeve. While in the back of the ambulance with Frank and Noel, the victim attempts to repent for his drug dealing ways but dies before they can reach the hospital.

The next day, Frank is paired with Marcus, an eccentric and religious man, and the two respond to a man reported to be in cardiac arrest in a club. When they arrive, Frank diagnoses that he is, in fact, suffering from an 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 regains consciousness.

On the way back to the hospital, Frank visits Mary's apartment to tell her that her father's condition is improving. Frank and Marcus then respond to a call by a young man whose girlfriend is giving birth to twins. 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 other twin with the hospital staff. The hospital is unable to revive the smaller twin, and a dismayed Frank starts drinking before Marcus joins him and crashes the ambulance into a parked car.

The following morning, Frank sees Mary leaving the hospital and follows her to an apartment block; Mary tells Frank that she is visiting a friend and he escorts her to the room. After waiting a while, Frank barges in and discovers that it is a drug den run by a dealer named Cy Coates. Mary admits that she has turned back to drugs to cope with her father's condition, and as Frank tries to get her to leave, Cy offers him some pills.

In a moment of desperation, Frank takes the drugs and begins to hallucinate, seeing more ghosts of his patients. Once sober, 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. The pair are then called to Cy's drug den where a shooting has occurred, and find Cy impaled on a railing. Frank holds onto Cy as emergency services cut the railing but both are nearly flung off the edge before being pulled back up. Cy then thanks Frank for saving his life and becomes the first patient Frank has saved in months.

Afterward, Frank agrees to help Tom beat up Noel, and chase him down. Frank starts to hallucinate again, snapping out of it just as he comes upon Tom beating Noel with a baseball bat. As Frank visits Burke again, the voice pleads for death once more, and Frank removes Burke's breathing apparatus, causing him to fatally enter cardiac arrest. Frank then heads to Mary's apartment to inform her that he died. Mary accepts her father's death. Frank is invited in and falls asleep at Mary's side.



Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Bringing Out the Dead has an approval rating of 73% based on 111 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 an average score of 70 out of 100, 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]

Thelma Schoomaker, the editor, praised the movie and said: "It's the only one of his [Scorsese's] films, I think, that hasn't gotten its due. It's a beautiful film, but it was hard for people to take, I think. Unexpected. But I think it's great." She claims that the film initially was mis-marketed as a car-chase film: "What happened was, that film was about compassion, and it was sold, I think, as a car chase movie. When I saw the trailer I said, "Wait a minute! That's not what the movie's about!" I think people were made nervous by the theme of it, which I think is beautiful. I think it'll get its due."[12] In 2021, Nicolas Cage singled out Bringing Out the Dead as one of the best movies he ever made.[13]

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 October 10, 2022.
  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".
  12. ^ Lambie, Ryan (December 23, 2016). "Thelma Schoonmaker interview: editing Silence, Scorsese, Michael Powell". Den of Geek. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  13. ^ Greene, Andy (April 16, 2022). "'People Thought I Didn't Care — I Did.' Nicolas Cage Sets the Record Straight". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 21, 2022.

External links[edit]