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The speaker is Frank, a paramedic whose journeys into the abyss of human misery provide the canvas for Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out the Dead." There may be happiness somewhere in the city, but the barking voice on Frank's radio doesn't dispatch him there. His job is to arrive at a scene of violence, or collapse, and try to bring not only help but encouragement. Frank is played by Nicolas Cage, seen in the movie's closeup with his eyes narrowed in pain. He cruises the streets of Hell's Kitchen with a series of three co-pilots, in a three-day stretch during which he drifts in and out of sanity; he has hallucinations of an 18-year-old homeless girl named Rose, whose life he failed to save, whose death he wants to redeem. Like Travis Bickle, the hero of Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" (1976), Frank travels the night streets like a boatman on the River Styx, while steam rises from manholes as if from the fires below. Travis wanted to save those who did not want saving. Frank finds those who desperately want help, but usually he is powerless. The movie is based on a novel by Joe Connelly, himself once a New York paramedic. The screenplay by Paul Schrader is another chapter in the most fruitful writer-director collaboration of the quarter century ("Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ"). The film wisely has no real plot, because the paramedic's days have no beginning or goal, but are a limbo of extended horror. At one point, Frank hallucinates that he is helping pull people's bodies up out of the pavement, freeing them.
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