You want to know the best joke I’ve heard lately? The Kiss of Death remake. Despite having great source material to work from (that being Henry Hathaway’s 1947 original), Barbet Schroeder’s film might as well have been a comedy, as the level of incompetence on display really is mind blowing. The film features a whole range of well known stars, and almost every single one of them is heinously miscast. Nicholas Cage delivers the silliest role of his career as the babyish gangster ‘Little Junior’. Cage’s character is this film’s answer to Richard Widmark’s Tommy Udo, but unlike Widmark; Cage just can’t do the extreme psychotic, and succeeds only in making a fool of himself. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t given room to breathe, while Helen Hunt, Michael Rapaport and Ving Rhames are entirely wasted. Perhaps the biggest casting mistake was giving David Caruso the lead role. It’s hard not to laugh while he’s trying to look hard, and the ginger actor looks completely ridiculous throughout. The only actor in the entire film that has been well cast is Anthony Heald (Silence of the Lambs’ Dr Chilton), who has a very small role as a lawyer. Kiss of the Death is one of the clearest examples of casting with the poster in mind that I’ve ever seen.
The plot follows an unlucky guy who gets arrested after taking ‘one last job’ as a favour to his friend. While on the inside, he is asked to rat out his accomplices, and but won’t. However, he changes his mind when it comes to the end of his sentence (oh yes). What made the original great was that the story was tight, and by concentrating on just a handful of characters; the audience was able to care for their plight. This movie doesn’t benefit from that, as the film needs a whole load of characters so that a load of big names can star, and it harms the film as the whole thing is far too convoluted. Not much thought has gone into any scene in this film either, and certain plot threads seem to come out of nowhere; the lead character’s relationship with the babysitter being a good example of an idea that the film simply throws at you. You really need to stretch your imagination with this movie, as several things don’t make sense; and the fact that all in all, this film is bad ensures that stretching the imagination isn’t easy. The ending is similar to that of the original, but here we don’t get the impression that it’s come about as a result of the characters; and Samuel L. Jackson’s last moment on screen throws mud in the eye of the dark tone that a story like this should have. All I can say is that Kiss of Death is actually an apt name for this film, as Barbet Schroeder and co have embraced a good idea and killed it.