The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), Lookback/Review

Overlooked, underappreciated, Geena Davis headlining an action flick with Samuel L. Jackson as her wisecracking, foulmouthed sidekick. White girl, Black guy buddy movie. Some of us here LOVE this movie.

There are rumors and rumors of rumors that a sequel to Renny Harlin’s The Long Kiss Goodnight is in the works. I inexplicably missed the original when it came out and dismissed it as just another action flick. I was more than surprised at how prescient a movie it was at the time. The nineties was an adventurous time for filmmaking. Increasingly influenced by music videos, a lot of the art showed dark overtones, in bright colors and quick cuts. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs brought a sense of low-budget high-octane fun and breakaway banter back into the movies. He also expanded on the naturalistic acting styles in Barry Levinson’s conversational film Diner that let everyday small talk happen while allowing the plot to move along as it might. On the surface, The Long Kiss Goodnight is a fast-paced adventure movie with a quick wit, an accelerating pace, famous locations, and a female hero that performs too many impossible physical feats. Underneath it is an allegory to the growing paranoiac conspiracy theories that are now flooding into the mainstream. The movie references the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Samantha Caine’s transformation into the regrettably-named Charly Baltimore can be seen as an allusion to sleeper-agent multiple personality assassins.

1996’s The Long Kiss Goodnight was the second movie in a row that director Renny Harlin made with his then-wife Geena Davis. Davis played a pirate in the previous year’s Cutthroat Island. Harlin previously directed The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Die Hard 2 which were edited simultaneously and released just a week apart. Die Hard 2 was a huge hit and Ford Fairlane starred Andrew Dice Clay.  Harlin started his career by directing Finland’s most expensive film and the slashers Prison and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. The screenplay was written by action movie pioneer Shane Black who also wrote Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, The Last Boy Scout and The Last Action Hero. Alan Silvestri composed the Original Music and the Cinematography was by Guillermo Navarro.

Geena Davis plays Samantha/Charly, the ultimate sleeper agent. Davis was probably best known as Thelma from Thelma and Louise, but had also made Dustin Hoffman stutter in Tootsie and acted in a string of movies including The Fly, Beetlejuice, A League of Their Own, Quick Change, Earth Girls are Easy and won an Oscar for Accidental Tourist. Besides being an actress, Davis is also a late-blooming Olympic archer and a member of Mensa. According to the Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci true-crime book Murder Machine, Geena Davis occasionally babysat for mobster Dominick Montiglio’s kids. Montiglio was a member of Roy DeMeo’s assassination crew. The DeMeo crew hired  sociopathic family guy Richard “The Iceman“ Kuklinski (who lived across the street of a friend of mine when I was a kid) for wet jobs and Hollywood made a movie out of The Iceman in which Geena Davis snorts coke in a cameo. Davis was nominated for a Saturn Award for her performances as Samantha/Charlie. Samuel Jackson seems to be lit by some inner fire. He brings a damaged humanity and vulnerability to the wildest of roles. He brings more than wisecracks to private detective Mitch Hennessy. He puts tangible fear and uncertainty behind the bluster.

Amnesia chick Samantha Caine thinks she is a single mother and schoolteacher living in the small, suburban town of Honesdale, Pa. who is dating a nice guy. She suffers from “focal retrograde amnesia.” She has a daughter, Caitlin (Yvonne Zima), but she can’t remember the father. She hires Mitch Hennessy, a private detective who pulls small extortion cons, to find out who she used to be. An automobile accident activates Samantha’s “inner landscape” and she begins to remember her other personality, Charly, the woman she used to be. Originally mistaking herself for a chef, because she’s very handy with large kitchen knives, she begins to have more realizations of her past. Hennessy’s partner, Trin (played by Melina Kanakaredes, who has gone on to become a TV fixture as Dr. Sydney Hansen on Providence and as Det. Stella Bonasera on CSI: NY ), gets a major clue to her identity from a suitcase left in the attic of a boarding house. Saved from an assassination attempt by a very durable refrigerator door, Samantha takes off with Hennessy to unravel the clues and assemble a Remington rifle. They contact Dr. Nathan Waldman (Brian Cox) who tells Samantha that she never existed, that she was created as a cover identity for Charlene Elizabeth “Charly” Baltimore, a CIA assassin who disappeared eight years ago to resurface as a one of Santa’s elves on a parade float. Samantha and Hennessy take a trip to the Garden State to see her former fiancé Luke (David Morse), who turns out to be Daedalus, her last assassination assignment. Awkward. Charly kills Daedalus for reminding her who she is, grabs Hennessy and goes after her old CIA boss Leland Perkins (Patrick Malahide) who’s now working with an old nemesis from PsyOps Timothy (Craig Bierko), who is probably Caitlin’s daddy, to do a fund raiser for the CIA. No, they’re not gonna bake cookies. They’re going to tease conspiracy theorists for years:

Ad – content continues below


Fund raiser?


1993, World Trade Center bombing, remember? During the trial one of the bombers claimed the CIA had advanced knowledge; the diplomat who issued the terrorists visa was CIA, it’s not unthinkable they paved the way for the bombing, purely to justify a budget increase.”


You’re telling me that you’re gonna fake some terrorist thing just to scare some money outta congress?


Well unfortunately Mr. Hennessy I have no idea how to fake killing 4,000 people, so we’re just going to have to do it for real. Oh, blame it on the Muslims naturally, then I’ll get my funding.

Sound familiar? It should, dozens of 9-11 references are supposedly found in movies and TV shows (Short-lived X-File spinoff Lone Gunmen’s pilot was about a thwarted World Trade Center bombing) made before 2001. There is a movement of people who believe that Hollywood power brokers knew all about it.

Geena Davis does a magnificent job playing the dual roles of Samantha and Charly. Although we are led to believe that Charly is the real person that she used to be, there are enough hints that she may be a Delta programmed assassin with multiple personalities. This might explain her enhanced abilities. Charly’s almost a superhero, she can grab a gun from a burning man while in free-fall and shoot a target dead in the eye, she can shoot open a block of ice for a soft landing with an automatic weapon, she can outrun an incendiary bomb, she’s better than Xena. She has an epiphany while standing naked in front of a mirror. A lot of people who say they are MK Ultra mind control survivors use mirror imagery. She switches between alters, from gleefully skewering a tomato into a wall with a carving knife, because “chefs do that” to threatening her kid to skate, “Life is pain, get used to it.” We learn that Charly has been around the intelligence community from the time she was a kid, her father was in the Irish military. Recruited into spy work in spite of her violent tendencies, Charly sometimes also changes into a sex kitten personality, another theme from MK Ultra conspiracy threads.

The Long Kiss Goodnight was prescient about quite a few things besides the growing trend to female action heroes. For every “the last time I got blown candy bars cost a nickel” there is a subtle nod to mind-blowing paranoid possibilities. This is a conspiracy movie posing as an adventure flick.