Based on the novel of the same name by Joe Connelly (which I have read...and enjoyed) is this movie: the stroy of Frank Pierce, a burned out and weary paramedic working the third shift on the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen. Over the course of a long three days, Frank struggles with his sanity as he struggles with the ghosts of people he's faield to save, especially one in particular. He also has to deal with three different partners on each night. There's Larry-a guy who'd rather spend his time eating, Marcus the righteous man of God, and Tom- a psycho who gets off on mayhem.
This is the fourth collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader, and in many ways, it draws several comparisons to Taxi Driver (the first film they did together). Both are gritty and dark tales of redemption, although this one is a tad less bleak and more hopeful. It follows the book pretty well, retaining the novel's mix of pain, grimness, and dark humor, although the humor comes off more strongly and apparent in the movie.
This is a slight departure for Scorsese, with the movie being more of a dark comedy than the super gritty drama I was anticipating. This isn't a bad thing, but it seems a bit odd, especially since the movie is also a bit more reserved and lethargic than his usual fare. Maybe this film being different is why it's one of his more underrated films. That's a shame too, because I really dug this.
Nicolas Cage is the perfect choice for Frank, and he gives his second best performance of his career thus far (behind Leaving Las Vegas). He really pulls off the weary, desperate, and haunted nature of the character. John Goodman is fun as Larry, Ving Rhames is a real delight as Marcus, but it's Marc Anthony as a hospital regular who's the real scene stealer of the film. Patricia Arquette is decent if slightly underwhelming as Mary, an ex-junkie and daughter of one of Frank's patients who he tries to form a meaningful connection with.
As I mentioned, this film is a slight change of pace for Scorsese, but it still has some great moments of visual flair, and of course some killer needles drops. I was a tad disappointed because the humor is more prevalent than I anticipated, but it does the book justice, and is still a good and entertaining piece of work. Give it a chance.