Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Long Kiss Goodnight (Shitmas Hangover #2)

What do you get when Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON) and Renny Harlin (DIE HARD 2) collaborate on a Christmas action flick? Well, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, of course. This is basically the dream team of seasonal action entertainment with both the writer and director of this picture being responsible for two of the major heavy hitters in the holiday themed bullet riddled actioner cannon. That it's actually gleefully excessive fun only adds to the party. 

THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT isn't the most tightly tuned or accessible of either Black or Harlin's careers. It's a messy, convoluted and surprisingly sinister little piece of mid-90s blood soaked action cinema, but it works. And it does so primarily on its two leads: Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis. Jackson needs no introduction now and didn't really need one then either (he had both DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE and PULP FICTION under his belt by now). While neither were necessarily marquee names, they certainly didn't hurt the films box office potential and didn't require salaries that'd put the film over budget for what it honestly is. 

While not as flashy as some of the bigger 90s action flicks (TRUE LIES, anyone?) nor as trashy as some of the more fun (Any HARD TARGET fans out there?), it walks a thin line between spectacular set pieces (Davis shooting out the ice mid-air with a fucking uzi) and brutal, slippery violence (some very pretty knife work here) that doesn't really exist any more. It sort of plays out like a mid-budget amalgamation of the Bourne flicks and a more rugged assassin picture like LA FEMME NIKITA, though without the pretension of either. This is B-movie cinema at it's glossiest and seemingly A-Hollywood material at its most base, and it works in spite of both. 

Though this is all taking place at Christmas, it isn't the most holiday-ish of these films. A holiday parade is the early catalyst for most of the mayhem that takes place and there is a bunch of Christmasy stuff taking place between Davis's character and her daughter and some choice Christmas music use, but that's about it. Don't expect any cheeky holiday one-liners or candy cane stabbings here, it's very much in the background. Think MONEY TRAIN but without the NYC setting and without the suck factor.

And since we're celebrating “Shitmas” here, let's bring up the shit for a second: this is the Harlin/Davis husband and wife follow up to motherfucking CUTHROAT ISLAND. Yeah, the HUGE pirate movie that was never meant to be. Somehow, there was a person left in Hollywood that thought these two should work together again. Lucky for us, apparently. And, no, this is nowhere near as bad as CUTHROAT ISLAND. But, if it was, I wouldn't be writing this right now. 

THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT wasn't a hit for WB, necessarily, but it did well enough and has certainly had a lasting life on video. Personally, I think that the studio was silly for releasing this theatrically in October and not December but that seems to be the case with this stuff most of the time. Hell, have any of the Christmas carnage pictures (outside of the blatantly holiday themed horror flicks) come out that close to the holiday? To add insult to all of this, the only Christmas releases in 1996 were MICHAEL (Travolta as a fucking angel), EVITA (Madonna not being sexy) and THE EVENING STAR (don't watch it). In October this had to go up against THE GLIMMER MAN, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS, BOUND and SLEEPERS. It had very little chance to succeed, though still did business on par with those. And it's more fun than all of them put together. Though, there is a bit of sadistic glee to be gleaned from watching Seagal cut dudes up with a credit card as his pony tail swings elegantly, but he's no Geena Davis. And that's a sad Christmas for all. 

- Justin LaLiberty

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