The Long Kiss Goodnight

The Long Kiss Goodnight

October 11, 1996 121 minutes R

“F*ck it, run for your life!”

From the first time I watched it in a near empty theater back in 1996 until rewatching it for like the tenth time on New Year’s Eve 2018, the action flick ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight‘ sustains as one of my guilty pleasure faves. Its insane premise, pitch-black humor, big-budget set pieces, and quirky chemistry from two strong leads more than compensate for any irrelevant “imperfections”.

Samantha (Geena Davis) has a past so secret that not even she remembers it. Eight years after emerging with full on amnesia Sam and her young daughter have settled into a picturesque small-town life. Until her latest, last-ditch private detective Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) accidentally discovers a clue into her missing identity and then coincidentally unknown enemies from that prior life return with a vengeance. Leaving Sam and Mitch with little choice but to partner up, go on the road, and figure things out.

Shane Black’s script brings all his trademark overly-smart dialog, sardonic wit, stupefying action, and unfortunate misogyny to bear. And under Renny Harlin’s tightly out-of-control direction this film goes epic on all levels–subtlety be damned. This is an action film, damn it!

I’m still amazed Harlin was allowed to make such big-budget spectacle after the giant turd of ‘Cutthroat Island’. Thankfully, lessons learned from ‘Die Hard 2’ and ‘Cliffhanger’ pay off big. Everything exudes confidence–a director settling into his rhythm. There’s no rational reason for this film to have bombed. Especially with hot property Samuel L. Jackson out front after his breakout in ‘Pulp Fiction’. He’s on absolute fire here.

It’s unfortunate that Geena Davis never reached “movie star” status even with her ‘Thelma and Louise’ pedigree. Truthfully, her casting was likely one of the reasons ‘Long Kiss‘ failed to launch despite a charismatic, dramatic performance. It ain’t exactly nuanced, but this ain’t exactly Shakespeare. –BTW, Harlin cast his then wife Davis in what should have been a break-out for women action heroines everywhere. It was simply not to be.

With solid assists from genre masters Brian Cox and David Morse. While cinematographer Guillermo Navarro adds a polished sheen and notable flair to all the wow. Yet, Craig Bierko is regrettably (mis)cast as the chief baddie “Timothy“. Listening to Bierko’s deadpan delivery of Shane Black’s meant to be droll dialog still makes me wince; like looping through YouTube footage of a skateboarder rail crashing onto his balls.

This 1996 film knows exactly what it is and promises nothing else. If you can tolerate all the “bitch” jokes, a tedious bad guy, and abundant plot holes/contrivances ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight‘ delivers charming, atypical action buddy chemistry, plenty of laugh-out-louds, and loads of insane action. A perfect popcorn flick.

Stylish direction, way OTT stunts and set-pieces, a witty banter script, and infectious chemistry between two strong leads. A masterful guilty pleasure action flick.

About the Author
Chad Schulz