Release Date: 11 October 1996
Director: Renny Harlin
Synopsis: A school teacher suffering from retrograde amnesia living a charmed life in a sleepy Pennsylvania town, comes to the horrifying realization that she's really a government assassin.

My Review:
The Long Kiss Goodnight is the best action-adventure-tragic-comedy film of the 90's. The movie used multidimensional characters and made them non traditional action heroes. A school teacher quickly finds herself entwined in a mystery. With the help of a private investigator she learns not only about her former life, but of a domestic terrorist plot to destroy America. Don't let the plot fool you the movie is a prime example of controlled chaos, the dramatic sub plots in The Long Kiss Goodnight could easily make two movies. The movie makes bold use of experimental dialog and intelligent character development. For instance Mitch Henessy is a disgraced private investigator who has lost his family and is seeking redemption, with only two or three extra scenes the movie could have just as easily been about him in as much as it was about Samantha. My only complaint about the movie would be the villainous Timothy, and the seemingly endless number of times he should have died but didn't. In fact, if they ever made a sequel to The Long Kiss Goodnight, I wouldn't be surprised to discover he's a living brain in a jar.

Academic Analysis
The Long Kiss Goodnight film is a tragic comedy about the mysterious origins of a soccer mom suffering from retrograde amnesia. Also, The Long Kiss Goodnight is a Science fiction thriller that takes place in a near future that never happened. Regardless, the film itself is a Tech- Noir masterpiece that rivals later contemporaries such as The Thirteenth Floor or The Matrix. The dialog within the film is delightfully intelligent and the movie itself gets better with repeated viewings. It’s not surprising that the movie imagines the 20st century would end, or rather be reborn, with the seven deadly psychoses. Paranoia, obsession, delusion, megalomania, phobia, fetish, and conceit are all present within The Long Kiss Goodnight. Additionally, the film takes place in the week surrounding the Christmas holiday, during a time of great celebration in North America. The film revolves around a domestic terrorist plot to kill four thousand American citizens in Niagara Falls, New York on Christmas day contrasting the apocalypse with the birth of Christ. Media also plays a role in the film having become its own character through the use of television to recap integral plot points and link unrelated events within the overall tapestry of the film. What makes it unique in American cinema is how the filmmakers were able to successfully combine so many genres of classic cinema and maintain a comprehensive narrative with believable characters.

The Long Kiss Goodnight is a comedy filled with great tragedy. A tragedy being an event that causes great suffering, in as much as, it is a tragedy in narrative concluding with the death of the main character. Both forms of tragedy occur within the movie. The main character, played by Geena Davis has two identities. The first Identity, Samantha Caine, is a schoolteacher with no memories of her life before washing up on a New Jersey shore eight years earlier. Her former identity, Major Charlene Baltimore a retired CIA operative specializing in assassination. The title of the film is a double entendre that makes reference to a monologue Samantha makes early in the film. Samantha, with no memory of her past life, has decided to put the matter to bed and kiss it good night. Samantha’s search for a solution to the mystery surrounding her rebirth, and her fruitless search for her former identity, has officially ended in her mind. This brilliant use of light fare is also analogous to the story that lies ahead as Samantha’s efforts to separate herself from her past life proves to be impossible. As both a comedy borne of tragedy, and a mystery, the narrative of The Long Kiss Goodnight can be linked to the works of Shakespeare. The plays of Shakespeare are described in terms of mourning, guilt, and reparation. According to Joseph Westlund, Shakespeare introduces death as the central plot in romances. By having the characters experience an apparent loss of friendship and affection.(89) Samantha experiences the loss of her romanticized idea of her past life and mourns the revelation that she was most definitely not a chef in her former life. Like Shakespeare, The Long Kiss Goodnight introduces dark, clearly tragic, aspects into the film to add an additional sense of loss. For instance, it is implied Samantha’s daughter was born because Charlene was raped. When Charlene regains cognizance she rejects her daughter and resents Samantha’s very existence.

The Long Kiss Goodnight was released in 1996 and is set in the year 2000. Thus dating the film and establishing it as a fantastic vision of an imagined future. Like many science fiction films, it offers profound political and social commentary. (Lewis, 366) In this case, exploring the lack of compassion expressed by the guardians have for those individuals they are responsible for protecting. The movie feeds on audience paranoia, the agency responsible for preventing terrorist attacks on American soil, is plotting to attain more wealth and power from the government, by staging a disaster that will ultimately start a war between nations, and is actively lobbying propaganda to that effect. Like A Scanner Darkly, The Long Kiss Goodnight does not predict future technology as anything spectacular. Just because people have invented flying cars and hovercraft does not necessarily mean that they have caught on in popularity. The reason for this simply being that people are either ignorant of their invention, unimpressed or unable to utilize the capabilities of the technology, or because they’re unable to afford the luxury of the technology. As a rule, Science fiction isn’t about predicting the future, and science fiction writers aren’t trying to create it. Nobody invents anything without some illusion of profit. (Dern) In other words, without a perceived reward there is no incentive to create anything new or different. The high ranking official behind the staged terrorist attack on Niagara Falls intended to gain a financial reward for their efforts. If necessity is the mother of invention, then it is necessary for road vehicles to have four wheels so that they can use the existing paved roads that were designed for them. If you already have a car or a gun then it is unnecessary to get a new one unless it is more economical to do such a thing. Therefore, in the future some people will have new technology, and some people will make do with existing technology.

The Long Kiss Goodnight , much like a Noir film, features narration by the protagonist and involves an investigation of and by the protagonist. Again, like Noir, we learn about the character through flashbacks and diegesis. In the end nobody gets exactly what they want; however, the characters have matured enough to accept what they get while kicking and screaming. The Long Kiss Goodnight is also unique in that the protagonist of the film is both the anti hero(ine) and the falsely accused femme fatal. The Long Kiss Goodnight also contains elements of cyber punk. The heroine is a specialized assassin fighting against a monolithic government sponsored army of terrorist spies. The major villain is her ex-boyfriend/rapist who has an army of cannon fodder at his disposal to destroy his “energizer bunny.” Longing, pessimism, insecurity, and a sense of loss are prevalent throughout the film. However unlike Noir, world encompassing The Long Kiss Goodnight itself is composed mostly of white and gritty cityscapes instead of dark repressing shadows. Charlene’s direct, no nonsense, approach when nurturing her daughter, at the beginning of the film, was used by her daughter to save Charlene’s life, at the end of the film. Thus using repetition in order to balance the story at both the beginning and the end.

The content of Science fiction addresses events that resonate to audience sensibilities concerning all that is possible within a given historical context.(Katovitch; Kinkade, 620) The Thirteenth floor used the knowledge of existing technology, to create a future vision of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The matrix similarly used the same knowledge of existing technology and combined it with narratives of horror and fantasy to create an occult vision of the future. The Long Kiss Goodnight used the conventions of action, adventure, noir, and tragedy to create a new drama. Characters within The Long Kiss Goodnight do not behave ritualistically, that is to say, the characters do not behave according to convention. The dialog is filled with puns and the characters are more than willing to acknowledge and question the bizarre nature of their reality without breaking the fourth wall. Repeated viewings of The Long Kiss Good Night always reveals new information. For instance, when the hotel above the train station in New Jersey was blown to smithereens, Charlene takes control of her body away form Samantha and rescues the private investigator. As the P.I. and Samantha exit the frozen lake, Samantha asks what happened, to which the P.I. Responds “I saved you’re ass.” which illustrates a very realistic and playful human response to Samantha‘s question.

The characters within The Long Kiss Goodnight movie display a variety of mental disorders that are also embodied by individual characters within the film. One of the unique qualities of this embodiment of psychosis is that both the protagonists and antagonists seem overcome by their madness. Paranoia is embodied by Mitch Hennessey, the amoral private investigator, whose mistrust, anxiety, and fear of the unknown--while justified-- is most evident when he and Samantha Carjack Dr. Waldman. Further evidence of Mitch’s paranoia can be highlighted by the fact that he is so afraid that he’ll forget to do something or forget something important, like which pocket his gun is in, that he has to constantly remind himself in song. Obsession is embodied by One-eyed-Jack, the escaped convict seeking revenge against Charlene. Jack’s obsession is fueled by his mad quest for vengeance against the woman who poked out his eye. Delusion is embodied by Samantha and to a lesser extent Charlene. Samantha embodies delusion because she believed that she could put her past life behind her and dismissed the missing 30 odd years of her life as unimportant. Charlene embodies delusion because she refuses to accept responsibility for Samantha’s life nor is she willing to admit that she and Samantha are the same person. Megalomania, or the obsession with domination over others, is embodied by Timothy. Timothy is the father of Charlene’s daughter and is second only to Perkins in the organization plotting project honeymoon. Timothy knows he has the power to decide who lives or dies and wields it as if he were a god on earth. Katie, Charlie/Samantha’s daughter, embodies phobia her attempts to escape from perceived threats lead her further into danger, increasing both the audiences anxiety and fear for her safety. For example, Katie’s attempts to escape a bullet range led her to being trapped inside a tool box attached to the side of a tanker truck filled with explosives. Fetish is explored when Charlene takes over Samantha’s body, she immediately objectifies both herself and Mitch as a way of establishing power through seduction. By objectifying Mitch she dehumanizes him and allows herself to use him for other purposes. Conceit is displayed by Perkins, who prides himself, on enlisting the villains to set up operation honeymoon. The villains are so conceited they think they’ve won the battle before a single shot was fired.

Apocalyptic visions of the future are not exactly new ideas in science fiction. An apocalypse usually mourns the end of life, in as much as a birthday celebrates the creation of life. No birthday is more recognized than the birth of Jesus Christ. As far back as the 19th century, writers like Jules Verne were creating wondrous versions of the future. Even then, people had a misplaced faith in the power of inventions to make their lives easier.(Blake, CNN) After two world wars, that outlook changed, people learned that technology could be just as destructive as the individual who wields their power. In The Long Kiss Goodnight a domestic secret organization of spies are planning on using a tanker truck filled with temperature sensitive explosives to kill a tenth of the population of Niagara Falls, New York. The location chosen for this disaster holds significance because, near the end of the 19th century American and European futurists were in awe of the Niagara Falls. Several novelists pictured Niagara as the focal point of disastrous future wars. Poets, novelists, inventors, engineers and scientists; each imagined a future in which Niagara was to play a central role. (McGreevy, 47) How fitting then that a science fiction movie taking place at the end of the 20th century would revive a classic apocalypse narrative. Killing a tenth of the population of Niagara Falls during a great celebration of life, would no doubt have a far reaching impact beyond that of the September 11 attacks. Christmas in America, Canada, and parts of Europe, and the South Pacific would no longer be a time of celebration, but a time of great mourning.

Media plays a role in The Long Kiss Goodnight, to the extent that it becomes its own character within the film. Media appears frequently in the sotry, projected on various television sets. Media first appears at eleven minutes into the film at the state penitentiary, reemerges five minutes later in Samantha’s kitchen, within fifteen minutes of that we see a clip from the three stooges on yet another television. Another television appears two minutes after the stooges clip, again a half hour later at another motel, and again at the end of the film. Each appearance of a television lasts for more than two seconds, piquing interest and giving some importance to the dialog being played. For the most part the media plays the role of the tattle tale dramatizing and reorganizing the events that have already occurred. People tend to forget televisions are actually computer monitors that project the input they receive. According to Fred Glass all that is necessary for a rock, a tree, a computer, or a dog to become a character is that they have the capacity of speech; and that they have motivations for the actions they take. (17) The media played on the television sets certainly produces sound, and one can assume the motivation of the media is to gain the audiences attention and redirect their train of thought. An individual knows that a television has to be plugged in and turned on in order to function. Assuming again that the television monitor has to receive its input from somewhere in order to augment reality with its presence, the disembodied media then becomes a character of the movie in much the same way a ghost is represented by floating objects in a room where gravity would otherwise be pulling the objects to the ground.

The Movie ends with the death of Samantha Caine. Not a literal death of the character but a release. With only a few minutes on the screen for explanation, the pictures on the screen must have instant meaning.(McGrail; Milburn, 616) If we are to assume that Samantha is no longer present then we must also acknowledge she was a person and not a personality. Samantha’s transformation into Charlene was accompanied by black outs when Charlene’s personality superseded her own. However, at no point in The Long Kiss Goodnight does the story imply Charlene does has forgotten Samantha’s memories. Regardless, there is strong evidence that Samantha is not the same person she was at the beginning of the film. This goes beyond the change in physical appearance. In Fact, no where is this change expressed more accurately then Mitch points out why the change seems unnatural. Samantha went from “oh fooie the muffins are burning” to walking into a bar and chasing out the sailors.

Imagine the audiences delightful surprise when they discover Samantha, the mild mannered soccer mom, was actually a highly trained assassin. At the right moment the ever underestimated “soccer mom” becomes a superhero; saving Mitch, Katie, herself, and 4,000 others from total annihilation. The Long Kiss Goodnight satisfies all the qualities required of a Tech-Noir masterpiece. Like a Shakespearian play, The Long Kiss Goodnight carried the audience through a full range of emotions. We feel sad for the loss of a perfect world. Anger for the pain and suffering one experiences. And, finally, accepting what is and living in the moment.



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McGreevy, Patrick. “Imagining The Future at Niagara Falls.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Volume 77. No. 1. (1987) JSTOR PDF


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Dern, Daniel. What Science Fiction Writers Have Learned About Predicting The Future of Technology. CIO, Dec. 2008 .Web. 7 December 2009
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Blake, John. Why our 'amazing' science fiction future fizzled. CNN, May 2009. Web.
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Ebert, Roger. The Long Kiss Goodnight. Sun Times, Oct. 1996. Web. 7 December 2009
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