KISS OF DEATH opens with ex-convict Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) attempting to distance himself from his shady past. His cousin, Ronny (Michael Rapaport), shows up at his door begging for help with one more heist, and Jimmy agrees to participate against his better judgment. Things go sour when a detective is shot, and Jimmy is left to take the fall. As Jimmy’s hopes for a normal life with his wife (Helen Hunt) and daughter fade, he becomes a pawn of the police in their attempts to bring down a psychotic gangster named Little Junior (Nicolas Cage).
Caruso and a pumped-up, supremely menacing Cage highlight a spectacular cast that also features Samuel L. Jackson as the cop who becomes Jimmy’s solitary ally and Stanley Tucci as a Machiavellian district attorney. Novelist Richard Price supplies the screenplay, and director Barber Schroeder (SINGLE WHITE FEMALE) ensures that KISS OF DEATH, based loosely on the 1947 film of the same name, unfolds with the grooved precision of a well-made watch while bristling at every turn with the volatile life of a vividly imagined criminal underworld.