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Kiss of Death is a slick, predictable crime melodrama



Little Junior (Nicholas Cage) and Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) face off in Kiss of Death.

Kiss of Death

Directed by Barbet Schroeder.

Written by Richard Price.

Starring David Caruso, Nicholas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, and Helen Hunt.

Sony Cheri.

By Matthew E. Konosky
Night Editor

Kiss of Death has all the elements of a suspense thriller except one - an ending. To say the film is anticlimactic would be an understatement. Most disturbing is that the credits begin to roll just as we are inched toward the fate of Little Junior, the New York crime boss at the heart of the movie's story.

Kiss of Death focuses on Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso), an ex-convict struggling to put together the pieces of his life so he can finally settle down with his wife Bev (Helen Hunt) and infant daughter. Enter Jimmy's cousin Ronnie (Michael Rapaport) who has an equally dark past and desperately needs Jimmy's help if he wishes to avoid the wrath of Little Junior (Nicholas Cage).

Predictably enough, Ronnie's appearance comes just as Jimmy appears well on his way to escaping the evils of his past. It should also come as no surprise that Jimmy's involvement in transporting stolen property for Ronnie ultimately lands him back in jail.

While serving time, Jimmy finds himself trapped between the district attorney's office, which desperately needs his help, and the mob, which wants him to keep quiet. While in jail, Jimmy learns that his wife was raped by Ronnie immediately before an accident. This inspires an ingenious plan of revenge which ultimately lands Ronnie in a body bag.

With his family life now destroyed, Jimmy agrees to serve as a confidential informant in an effort to put away Little Junior once and for all. Using his knowledge of the underworld, Jimmy penetrates deep into Little Junior's organization (dealing in weapons and stolen property) based at a local strip joint.

Just as it appears as though Jimmy's life may return to normal, both the feds and the DA's office drop all charges against Little Junior and he is sprung on a technicality. Jimmy later learns that part of the arrangement lands the DA a federal judgeship. Fed up with a legal system that has repeatedly let him down, Jimmy confronts Little Junior with the help of Calvin (Samuel L. Jackson), the cop from the DA's office who oversees Jimmy as a confidential informant.

This confrontation lands Little Junior behind bars on charges of assaulting an officer, during which Jimmy devises a scheme for blackmailing the district attorney into retrying him. But rather than explain how the DA could convince federal authorities to reopen charges against Little Junior, the credits begin to roll with Jimmy riding off with his family and, supposedly, a new life.

Despite being annoyingly predictable at times, Kiss of Death is unique in that, unlike most other mob films, it explores the obstacles faced by a former convict finally trying to free himself from the grips of organized crime. It also reveals the complex workings of the district attorney's office, which keeps Jimmy in limbo right until he blackmails the DA into releasing him at the very end.

Kiss of Death is a must see for all those who rushed out to see Good Fellas and the Godfather films upon their release. Yet for those looking for another Good Fellas, the anticlimactic ending will destroy an otherwise captivating film.