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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Kiss of Death (1995)



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Kiss of Death is a remake of a notorious but flawed movie from 1947. It's a loose remake, showing scenes only hinted at in the original and fleshing out the relationships between the characters. It has flaws of its own, but it's one of the few remakes that can justify its existence, because it reinterprets something that wasn't done perfectly the first time. This remake is flawed also, for different reasons, but it stands side by side with the original, complementing it very well; they stand together better than they stand apart.

David Caruso stars as an ex-con who's made a new life for himself. But when the rough crowd of his old life comes knocking for help, he can't turn them down. Predictably, that's when the trouble begins. But the story from there is riveting as Caruso finds himself sandwiched between the law and the underworld, neither one of which will leave him alone to live his life in peace.

Several elements of the story are misplaced or underdeveloped, but the atmosphere seemed fresh to me, and the harsh brutality of Caruso's adversaries -- on both sides -- created an air of urgent desperation. Samuel L. Jackson is good but underused as a cop injured in a job Caruso was involved with; Nicolas Cage plays a wonderfully disturbing crime leader, every bit as loony as Richard Widmark's portrayal of the character in the original film.

Faint of heart, be forewarned. The original film was unusually frank, by 1947 standards, in its depiction of violence. The remake, for better or for worse, is similarly disturbing by 1995 standards.

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