Bringing Out the Dead is a 1999 drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film stars Nicolas Cage (in the last of a series of films in the late 1990s distributed by Paramount Pictures in North America and Touchstone Pictures internationally, the first two being Face/Off and Snake Eyes) as Frank Pierce, a sleep-deprived paramedic who hasn't saved a life in months. The film takes place over the course of several days, as he finds himself frequently haunted by visions of lives he has failed to save.
Rounding out the cast are Patricia Arquette, Tom Sizemore, Ving Rhames, Marc Anthony, John Goodman, and Cliff Curtis. Scorsese himself frequently pops up as the voice of a rather sardonic dispatcher, while another dispatcher whose voice is heard in several scenes is played by Queen Latifah.
Tropes appearing in this film:
- Activist-Fundamentalist Antics: Marcus fits this like a glove as the EMT who spouts Christian Bible quotes and doctrine to his fellow EMTs, his patients and whomever is watching them work on their patients! Especially at the Goth Club where he double takes at his patient's odd stage name, and when he learns from Frank that his patient is still alive but in a drug induced coma, he uses Narcan to fake a miraculous recovery to attempt to convert the club patrons to Christianity. We find out how much a Hypocrite Marcus is when he flirts with the female dispatcher and tries to pick up a prostitute while on duty.
- Ax-Crazy: Tom absolutely adores tormenting victims. He especially seems to have it out for Noel, looking for any excuse possible to kick seven bells of shit out of the poor guy.
- The Big Rotten Apple: New York is painted in an extremely dismal light, where violence is rife and hospitals are so packed with the sick and wounded that Frank has to sweet-talk a nurse into allowing his first patient in.
- Creator Cameo: As usual, Martin Scorsese, this time as a dispatcher over the radio.
- Dr. Jerk: Just about everyone that works at the ER seems to be a real prick. The character of Nurse Constance is a particularly noteworthy example, as almost all of her screentime is devoted to her berating patients for their life choices and at times outright questioning why she should bother helping them.
- Goth: Just about everyone who is at the club Frank and Marcus arrives at, including their patient I Be Bangin' (Fredrick Smith) and his bandmates.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Frank is repeatedly haunted by visions/the ghost of a young woman named Rosa whose life he failed to save.
- The Insomniac: Frank hasn't been able to sleep well in ages, and his ability to function is severely hampered as a result.
- The Medic: The film follows the exploits of a New York City paramedic. This film is a grittier depiction of this trope as it portrays the immense emotional toll that working in EMS can take on a person. While it is a noble profession, EMTs/paramedics often work under stressful conditions and it leaves many people burnt out; while they do everything in their power to keep people alive, they do sometimes fail to do so, but that’s simply the nature of the job.
- Mercy Kill: What finally does in Mr. Burke. After several days worth of endless defibrillations with little in the way of actual results, Frank secretly removes his apparatus and allows him to enter cardiac arrest. Within minutes, the poor bastard is finally out of his misery.
- Perma-Stubble: Frank looks like absolute hell throughout the film, with a perpetual 5-o'clock shadow and deep bags under his eyes.
- Spiritual Successor: To Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese's own Taxi Driver. Both movies star an isolated, insomniac man with a hero complex driving people around New York City, but unlike Travis Bickle, Frank Pierce does have a strong moral compass, even if burnout makes him do stupid things.
- Triage Tyrant: The triage nurse gives lectures to the patients that come in. "Let me get this straight. You snorted cocaine and now you feel like your heart is going to explode. We didn't buy you the cocaine, we didn't shove it up your nose..."