The Long Kiss Goodnight: A masterful performance by Geena Davis erases an absurd plot | Streaming TV
IIt’s an insane premise: An amnesiac schoolteacher discovers she was an assassin and must use her newfound skills to stop a terrorist plot in order to save her daughter. But The Long Kiss Goodnight is a ’90s action flick, and inane premises are part of the journey. In fact, despite performing significantly below the box office and largely omitted from canon, much of Renny Harlin’s 1996 film epitomizes what was so great about this golden age of action cinema.
Shane Black was best known for writing Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout when he sold this script for a record-breaking US $ 4 million, and it delivers its signature combination of impressive action pieces and sharp dialogue. Never mind that in the end the plot is almost absurd – something about a government plot in Niagara Falls? – because at this stage we are completely invested in the survival of our two central characters.
Samuel L Jackson plays Mitch, a crooked cop turned low-rent private investigator who teams up with schoolteacher Samantha (Geena Davis) when his old identity as a murderer, Charly, begins to violently reappear. On the road in search of answers and mostly finding shootouts and explosions, Mitch and Samantha / Charly form the heart of the film in a co-ed version of the classic boyfriend cop formula.
Their chemistry is strong enough to overcome some dialogue hiccups (remember when sexual assault was funny? Me neither) in large part because their position as outsiders allows significant empathy to develop both for and between them. Jackson was at the peak of his powers here, having starred in Pulp Fiction, A Time to Kill and Die Hard: With a Vengeance for the previous two years; Watching him turn a sleazy ex-convict into an adorable underdog reminds me why he’s one of the most beloved and profitable actors of our time. (It is telling that in 2018 he said The Long Kiss Goodnight is his favorite movie to watch of the 130+ he’s appeared in.)
The success of the film ultimately rests on Davis, who must pull off the split-personality principle and transform into a believable action hero as well. The ’90s gave us plenty of wacky action setups that graze the camp in their execution, including John Travolta and Nicolas Cage swapping faces in the outrageous Face / Off, but Davis plays it boldly.
Charly is Samantha’s Madonna’s violent whore, desperate to get rid of Samantha’s soft body, soft curls and soft heart. The emotional dilemma she faces when her daughter is threatened and she can no longer deny her maternal instincts turns the film into a story about rejecting the dichotomy and creating a separate path. Bringing thoughtful depth to Charly, Davis transforms the character into an overwhelming indictment of restrictive stereotypes applied to women on screens and in life.
Davis did most of her own stunts throughout the film, and she uses her physique as another medium for emotional expression. Initially, Charly’s assault is as much an attempt to kill Samantha as an act of revenge against all the men who have wronged her, but it turns into a primary protection of her child. With it, Charly takes her place alongside Sarah Connor from Terminator 2 and Ellen Ripley from Aliens as an iconic mother figure whose violence is rooted in empathy as much as anger.
A transformation into a feminist action hero takes on real meaning in Davis’ career trajectory, following her roles in the beloved female hits A League of Their Own and Thelma and Louise. So it’s infuriating that The Long Kiss Goodnight marked the end of his bankable star career: With the possible exception of the Stuart Little films, Davis hasn’t made any headlines since.
Instead, she continued to fight patriarchy behind the scenes, creating the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004 to research gender and other minority roles in film and television and advocate for it. more diversity on screen. Along with Thelma, this will likely form his cinematic legacy for years to come, but one must also remember his success in infiltrating the hyper-masculine realm of action movies. Once lost in the glut of late 20th century action shows, The Long Kiss Goodnight emerges as a captivating example of the genre and a modest feminist triumph.