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'Kiss': All Puckered Out

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 11, 1996

Director Renny Harlin and wife Geena Davis are back in action with "The Long Kiss Goodnight," a lulu of a leatherette thriller that harks back to such lusty larks as sexploiter Russ Meyers's "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" Unfortunately, the filmmaking couple take the fetishistic masquerade far too seriously. They may describe it as a "departure" from traditional fare, but it's simply the same old action-packed guff.

Undaunted by the foundering of their girly swashbuckler "Cutthroat Island," the Harlin-Davises once again bet the Range Rover on Davis's macha appeal. Never mind that audiences repeatedly shun hellbent super-heroines -- except for "Pussycat" kitsch or those who knock heads off-planet, as in the "Alien" series.

Some moviegoers, for that matter, even felt uneasy in the charming company of Davis's last hit, "Thelma & Louise," that now-tedious cliche of female empowerment and self-immolation. And they were a couple of cupcakes compared with the Schwarzeneggerian persona Davis adopts in this quip-filled but mean-spirited slugfest. Written by Shane Black for a $4 million paycheck, the story, like his sole hit, "Lethal Weapon," pits the salt-and-pepper team of Davis and saucy sidekick Samuel L. Jackson against a slew of rogue CIA operatives and a notorious arms dealer.

Davis is Samantha Caine, a suburban school teacher, loving single mother and wife-to-be who suffers from amnesia. When her repressed memories begin to endanger her idyllic new existence, she hires an irreverent, low-rent gumshoe (Jackson) and together they set out to discover her true identity.

The newly bonded buddies are pursued by men in black until they are finally trapped at a farmhouse, where an old colleague tortures Samantha. Tied to a water wheel in her slip, the heroine is repeatedly dunked in a frigid mill stream. The dunking -- just a warmup for the perils to follow -- works like an old-fashioned conk on the head: Of course -- she's really Charly, a highly trained top-secret CIA assassin.

Bone-crunching, gizzard-slitting high jinks of an elaborate and explosive nature ensue as Charly, now blond and snug in a cat suit, and her trusty, much battered buddy must rescue the city of Niagara Falls from the deadly doings of the renegade operatives.

The stakes are raised when Charly's longtime nemesis (Craig Bierko) kidnaps her 8-year-old daughter (Yvonne Zima) and threatens to blind and cripple the child unless Charly surrenders. Torn between her maternal and her killer instincts, the super-heroine must decide who she really is once and for all.

We all know there's nothing more fearsome than a mother obliged to protect her cub and, in this case, there's nothing more ludicrous. Charly, in a clingy undershirt, and her daughter are locked in a meat locker. "Are we gonna die, Mommy?" asks the child. "No, the bad men are going to die," says Charly. "How about we get a dog?"

Yo. Is that the sound of barking?

The Long Kiss Goodnight is rated R for language and violence.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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