Holiday Movie Month: "The Long Kiss Goodnight" Review

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

Holiday Movie Month: "The Long Kiss Goodnight" Review

Rating: R (substantial amount of strong bloody violence and language)
Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 1996
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" acts as somewhat of an inspiration for "The Bourne" trilogy that followed in the early 2000s. The plot lines of these two action-packed films are remarkably similar; a secret agent who suffers amnesia must find out about her/his past. However, "The Long Kiss Goodnight" stands apart for its ability to show the change in going from a normal life to an all-action secret assassin. The mid-1990s was not particularly a popular time for big action films, meaning "The Long Kiss Goodnight" did not have much competition. In spite of this, the movie contains some inspired scenes and original ideas that will leave you hankering for more.

The screenplay for the film was written by Shane Black, who was one of the highest-paid scriptwriters in Hollywood at that time. After he penned the initial script, many rewrites were made to find a better overall view of the characters, and how they relate to the plot. Originally, Samuel L. Jackson's character was supposed to die early in the plot; however, during a test screening this was widely condemned. As a result, director Renny Harlin reshot the scene, so Jackson's character lives, and he also had to adapt the script once again to include his character throughout the rest of the film.

Besides Samuel L. Jackson, Geena Davis also costars in the film. This was considered a risky move because she didn't have much experience with action films. However, she embraced the role fully and performed most of her stunts herself.

The film opens by setting a scene that is atypical of the average action movie. Samantha (played by Davis) is a schoolteacher and mother in the small rural town of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Everything seems to be normal, but soon after, it is revealed she suffered from complete amnesia eight years previously after being found washed up on the New Jersey shoreline. Samantha was pregnant at the time, and she was also badly injured, yet she had no recollection of the events that brought her to that place.

In the intervening eight years, Samantha has been determined to find out about her life prior to the amnesia. She has hired many private investigators in an attempt to discover the truth about her past, but so far, she has found no luck. Her latest pursuit for learning about her past leads Samantha to a funny, yet dodgy, private investigator named Mitch (played by Jackson).

Not long afterwards, she is injured in a car accident and is attacked by a fleeing fugitive. She is surprised to learn she has a vast array of combat skills, and she breaks the robber's neck in self-defense. In the meantime, Mitch catches a break in the case to find out who Samantha really is. Their quest leads them to Dr. Nathan Waldman, who reveals that Samantha used to work as an assassin for the CIA, and her real name is in fact Charlene Baltimore.

Another clue leads the trio to a man named Luke. Charlene seems to think she once may have been engaged to him, but in fact, he was one of her former targets. Luke is surprised to see her turn up, and he kills Dr. Waldman, imprisons Mitch, and tortures Charlene for information. While being tortured, Charlene is able to regain all her lost memory. She manages to kill Luke and escape with Mitch.

Mitch attempts to convince Charlene to return to her normal life as Samantha, but she refuses to go along with this plan. She manages to convince Mitch to join her in stopping a false-flag plot carried out by the CIA. Charlene and Mitch attack the staging area of the operation and manage to kill the agents primed to carry out the plot. The film ends by showing Charlene returning to her normal life as Samantha with her six-year old daughter Caitlin, while Mitch gains fame for his role in preventing the crisis from occurring.

The film opened to largely positive reviews, and this was reflected in worldwide gross revenue of $89 million. In the years following its release, there were several rumors that a sequel was possibly in the pipeline. Nothing ever came of this until 2011, when director Harlin confirmed that a sequel was definitely on the table, and Jackson was also very keen to reprise his role. In an exclusive online interview, Harlin said he still needed to find a suitable writer for the project to go ahead, but he has already thought about script ideas. The tentative plan is to have Jackson's character Mitch team up with Charlene's daughter Caitlin, who would now be an adult. Time will tell if a sequel will come to pass, but action-film lovers will be sure to look out for any further updates.

Rating: 3 out of 5