The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Movie Title: The Long Kiss Goodnight

Year Released: 1996

Rated: R

Runtime: 2h 1min

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Renny Harlin

Writer: Shane Black

Starring: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Yvonne Zima, Craig Bierko, Tom Amandes, Brian Cox, Patrick Malahide, David Morse, Melina Kanakaredes, Rex Linn, Alan North, Edwin Hodge, Gladys O'Connor, G.D. Spradlin,

Review: For the last eight years, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) has been a wonderful wife, and mother to her daughter Caitlin (Yvonne Zima), but everything before then is a complete mystery. With the help of low-rent detective Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson) Sam soon discovers that she was an assassin left for dead... and now the ones that betrayed her want to finish what they started. So close your eyes and brace yourself for the The Long Kiss Goodnight.

After the box office disaster that was Cutthroat Island (1995), Director Renny Harlin re-teamed with, then wife, Geena Davis for this thrilling action extravaganza. It was a big gamble for both the couple and the studio, respectively, but thanks to a great cast, incredible action set pieces, and Shane Black's endlessly quotable, not to mention hilarious, script, The Long Kiss Goodnight stands out as one of the best, and most underrated, action flicks of the '90s.

Although not as big a hit as expected, The Long Kiss Goodnight did well at the box office. It probably would have done much better today because back in 1996 female led action vehicles were very rare and not taken seriously by the hardcore action crowd, which is a shame because this one delivers the goods in a big, bad way.

Geena Davis is not only up to the physical challenge of this movie, but she has to play two distinct characters trapped in one body - the sweet and loving Samantha and the brutal and deadly Charly Baltimore. And as it could have been played as a Jekyll and Hyde type character, Davis, along with Black's smart script, has Sam and Charly learn to work together to survive death-defying sequence after death-defying sequence all the while protecting young Caitlin from an endless supply of bad guys. She's wonderful as she effortlessly takes on all of harrowing action scenes as well as the strength and tenderness of being a loving mother. Davis should certainly be included with other strong female action film characters Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner.

Then there's Samuel L. Jackson as low-down detective Mitch Henessey. This is arguably Jackson's best performance on film. He's funny, frightened, charming as hell, and never willing to give up on Samantha, which helps him rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall. He also has some of the best lines of dialogue in this movie - "...everyone knows, when you make an assumption, you make an ass out of 'u' and 'umption'." and "Yes, I'm a Mormon. That's why I just smoked a pack of Newport and drank three vodka tonics." - just to list a few. There's also a ton of other great lines that are filled with four letter words that one the great Samuel L. Jackson can deliver with such conviction and attitude that you can help but love this guy! Jackson has even said in several interviews that Mitch is his favorite role and it's easy to see why.

Another highlight is Harlin's direction. The action scenes are top notch and get more amped up as the movie goes on. The stakes get bigger along with the explosions and the body count. This might very well be Renny Harlin's best movie to date.

The true hero of this picture is writer Shane Black and his slick and witty script. I'm a huge fan of Shane Black. From Lethal Weapon to The Nice Guys, Black is the master of off-beat heroes and quippy dialogue. He not only makes us like the characters here, but we root for them to succeed, and we are pleased to see how they grew over the course of the runtime. Plus, it takes place over Christmas, as most Shane Black films do, so it make for perfect holiday viewing.

So if you're in the moods for hard-hitting action, snappy dialogue, and Sam Jackson yelling, "M*****F*****S!", at any given moment, then pucker up for The Long Kiss Goodnight!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: Geena Davis and then-husband director Renny Harlin checked how long she could hold her breath in their bathtub to prepare for the "water torture" scene.


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