Kiss of Death (1995)

"Excellent"

Kiss of Death (1995) Review


Ever get the feeling that no matter what you do, you're screwed? That basically sums up the life of Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso), an ex-con trying to go straight in the new feature, Kiss of Death.

Jimmy, his wife Bev (Helen Hunt), and their daughter live an inner-city dream, trying to make ends meet. When Jimmy's cousin Ronnie (Zebrahead's Michael Rapaport) shows up, begging for a driver for his chop shop caravan, all hell breaks loose. Jimmy is busted, and his descent back into the pit of crime, prison, betrayal, and the government begins. Soon, Jimmy and his family are hounded by cop Calvin (Samuel L. Jackson), asthmatic psycho kingpin Little Junior (Nicholas Cage), and a host of other unsavory players. We are invited to watch and see how Jimmy extricates himself from the mess.

As you may well expect, Kiss of Deathis loaded with violence. I didn't expect it to be so funny, though. It's worth the price of admission just for a certain hilarious twist in Little Junior's strip joint. Cage's Junior gets all the best lines, but Caruso owns the picture with his dynamic and striking portrayal of a man with a past and little hope for a future.

On the minus side, director Barbet Schroeder flubs the first half-hour of the picture, which deals with the dull tale of Jimmy vs. Ronnie, before the guts of the action, Jimmy vs. Junior, begins. Hunt's talent is wasted as Jimmy's estranged wife, and it appears that a big chunk of her screen time was left on the cutting room floor. Pulp Fiction's Ving Rhames also has a few great lines as another deviant could-be criminal but is otherwise squandered.

Despite all that, once you cross that half-hour hurdle, Kiss of Death becomes a powerful thriller not quite like anything I've seen recently. Nothing too original or flashy, just a gritty story that rings completely true.



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