I missed The Long Kiss Goodnight when it first came out back in 1996, and only now have I caught up with it. I'm glad I did, because this is an action thriller with a difference. The Christmassy background is appealing, but what really makes the movie work is a winning combination of action and wit,with excellent performances from several very bankable actors.
Sam Caine (Geena Davis) is a schoolteacher living in Pennsylvania who is trying to solve a mystery of her own. She suffers from a severe case of amnesia (and trivia buffs will no doubt spot that her very name is a relevant anagram) and has no memory of her life prior to eight years ago. She was pregnant at the time she lost her memory, and has a young daughter, but no idea of the father's identity. She is now in love with a decent man, but has spent a lot of money on trying to find out who she is. Now she is scraping the barrel by engaging the services of Mitch, a dodgy gumshoe played by Samuel L. Jackson.
After Sam is involved in a car accident, suffering concussion, her memory starts to come back. It soon emerges that she has skills with a knife. and when she is attacked by an escaped convict who bears her a grudge, she dispatches him with deadly efficiency. Soon it becomes clear that her past life was very different, and very dangerous. With Mitch's help, she makes contact with a former colleague, played by Brian Cox, but then her past catches up with her in dramatic fashion. The excellent cast also includes Patrick Malahide, one of my favourite screen bad guys (even though he did play good old Inspector Alleyn as well).
All in all, the film stands up very well despite the passage of time since it was first screened. Part of the credit for this goes to the actors, and in particular Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. But much of the success of the film is, I think, due to the quality of the writing. There's plenty of humour in the screenplay, and a couple of twists near the end are neatly foreshadowed in earlier scenes - a sign of careful writing. Shane Black, the writer, is well-known for his action thrillers, and this accomplished story is highly entertaining.