Movie Review: Kiss of Death (1995)

The 90s were a fascinating time for crime movies/thrillers. Something about any movies in those genres made ’em infinitely watchable, even if they were fairly subpar as movies. So let’s see how this one fares.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Kiss of Death”.

Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) is a convict trying to better himself after taking the fall for a crime he was kinda part of. And after a few years in prison he agrees to go undercover for the police in order to take down the psychopath gangster (Nicolas Cage) who led the job. The narrative in this is kinda hard to talk about. Not because it’s particularly complex (it’s not), not because it’s nuanced (it really ain’t), but because it’s so bog standard that it’s hard to muster any major explanation or analysis. It’s a fairly standard crime-drama narrative that doesn’t do anything exceptionally bad or great. Its biggest flaw is that the narrative never has any real momentum after the inciting incident, it’s scene to scene, no engaging escalation or natural flow. But aside from that weird snafu, there’s nothing here that sticks out much in either direction. The story is neither good nor bad, it just… is.

The characters in this are… that’s it, they just are. They’re not egregiously hollow, but they’re also not really engaging. They’re… fine. What I can full on praise here though is the cast. David Caruso may not change facial expression much, but he can deliver his lines quite well, and while not exactly super engaging as a leading man, I think he works pretty well here. Samuel L. Jackson’s here too, playing a very angry cop that Caruso works with, and he’s really good (which no one’s surprised by). Then there’s the living legend Nicolas Cage as “Little” Junior Brown, the main antagonist of the movie. A crazed, violent, unpredictable gangster. The character himself is fairly whatever, but is elevated by the performance of Cage, who gives 140%. He goes big, and he isn’t afraid if it looks a little silly, and it makes the character super entertaining to watch, becoming the highlight of the movie. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Stanley Tucci, Michael Rapaport, Ving Rhames, Helen Hunt, Kathryn Erbe, Philip Baker Hall, and more, all delivering solid work.

The score for the movie was composed by Trevor Jones, and it was alright. I really like the main theme, which is a track that blends traditional orchestration with guitar in  way that isn’t super original, but sounds really nice nonetheless. The rest of the movie has a fairly bland orchestral score that works just fine for the movie. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine too.

Loosely based on a movie of the same name from 1947, “Kiss of Death” was directed by one Barbet Schroeder, and I think he did an alright (that seems to be the word of the day, huh?) job with it. There’s nothing really wrong with the direction, but there’s also never really anything too great either, no unique flair. Just perfectly passable direction.

This movie’s gotten some mixed to positive reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 68% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

So yeah, “Kiss of Death” is just fine, a perfectly passable thriller to put on in the background on a rainy afternoon. The story is fine, the characters are fine, the performances are really good, the music’s pretty good, and direction is fine. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Kiss of Death” is a 6.11/10. So I’d say it could be worth a rental.

My review of “Kiss of Death” is now completed.

Come for the Nicolas Cage, stay for the… Nicolas Cage.

One thought on “Movie Review: Kiss of Death (1995)

  1. What a fine cast, to then deliver an ‘average film’. Something I might watch if it was on TV, but not go out of my way to find.
    Thanks, markus.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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