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Deprived of sleep, wired on speed of kinds, haunted by visions of a homeless girl he couldn't save, like Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, Frank roams the neon-spackled streets despairing at the decay around him. He's as war-torn by the ravages of the 1980s (the film is set in the early 1990s, before Mayor Giuliani got tough on crime) as Travis was by Vietnam's after effects. But Frank's problem is too much empathy, not alienation, and at least he's not as crazy as his co-drivers--one addicted to food (John Goodman), one to religion (Ving Rhames) and one to drugs and violence (Tom Sizemore)--each colleague more hilarious and frightening than the last. This is a story of a man who thought he could not take it anymore, one wracked by guilt and regret, who ends up being redeemed by--it's a movie cliché, and yet it just about works here--the love of a good woman (Patricia Arquette).
Bringing Out the Dead may lack the glamorous, adolescent angst of Taxi Driver and eschew the rigorous dissection of masculinity that distinguished Raging Bull but it has its own quieter virtues and just as much visual bravura. Watching it on the small screen gives you more time to absorb its moral subtleties, its spectacular time-lapse photography and, like all great Scorsese movies, its hysterical stretches of black humour (Rhames' character's attempt to raise a seemingly dead clubber is a particular highlight). It may not be one of the director's, or even the screenwriter's, best films, but it still towers above most of the dross churned out by Hollywood every year and remains indispensable viewing for anyone serious about cinema. --Leslie Felperin