Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: The Saint (1997)

In the 1980s Roger Moore, the most forgettable of Bonds, optioned the film rights to the source material of the forgettable 60s TV show, The Saint, in which he starred during the pre-prat stage of his largely forgettable career. Would the resulting 1997 film version be equally forgettable? Well, there’s a very concise answer to that, but I’m not letting you off that easily.

After years in development hell, the production team managed to land Robert Evans, the once-great New Hollywood producer and studio chief who is today best known for the audiobook version of his autobiography, where he obnoxiously imitates Jack Nicholson and Charlie Bluhdorn, recites skin-crawlingly-bad poetry about one night stands, and answers his own questions, like “My life today? More volatile than ever. Tough? You bet your ass it is.” The Saint was in the pipeline when Evans was finishing his book, and in the final chapter he mentions the project as one of the upcoming films he hoped would herald his comeback. Something must have changed soon after, though, because he allegedly walked away from the film mid-production, although his name remains on the credits for contractual reasons. This is quite unfortunate for me, because I’d much rather write about Robert Evans than this film that he partially produced.

Anyway, The Saint goes like this: As a youth, Val Kilmer’s character is partly responsible for the death of a female classmate in an oppressive Catholic co-ed boarding school. He adopts a pseudonym, Simon Templar, taken from a comic book about the Knights Templar, and develops a fetishistic attachment to Catholic saints. In later life he is a professional thief who relies more on the inadequate security infrastructure and general incompetence of his targets than any obvious skill or athletic prowess of his own. After stealing a Pentium processor from the vault of a Russian crime lord (who strangely resembles Yanni) while rocking an unintentionally gay moustache, Simon actually takes a job from the Yanni chap, for reasons I'm not sure are ever explained.

Unintentionally gay.
Kilmer’s assignment: To steal the unfinished formulas for Cold Fusion developed at Oxford by Elisabeth Shue, whose irresistible school-marm charm makes her a welcome presence on the screen while at the same time ensuring that she is the last person you’d ever peg as the world’s leading physicist. (And everything was so plausible up to this point!) Kilmer seduces Shue while disguised as what appears to be The Beast from the Walt Disney production and steals the most important scientific discovery of the 20th Century from her undergarments. (And no, I’m not talking about the female orgasm, as that’s still obviously a myth.) Yanni wants the Cold Fusion formulas to convince the Russian people- who are currently freezing due to a purported lack of natural resources for heat production- that only the Russian Mafia is capable of giving them what they need. What happens after that you can probably write yourself- and even if you’re completely wrong, it wouldn’t be any less exciting than what actually transpires onscreen.

Seriously, the (very few) action sequences in this film are both short and uninspired. Roger Moore, of all people, should have known that people come to these films to be wowed by suspenseful chases and whimsical gadgets. Wait- on second thought, perhaps Moore wasn’t the right guy to be shepherding this project after all. Have we forgotten Moonraker?

Anyway, Jason Bourne this ain’t. Speaking of Jason Bourne- have you seen those movies? They’re actually quite good. Especially the last two, directed by Paul Greengrass. I hear Greengrass is working on a film about the last days of Martin Luther King, to be done in the real-time style of his earlier films, Bloody Sunday and United 93. Oh, I’m supposed to be talking about The Saint still, aren’t I? Sigh.

Val Kilmer dons silly costumes and speaks in silly accents throughout the film. Unfortunately it is less Fletch and more Master of Disguise in execution. As miscalculated as Kilmer’s accents are, however, they still can’t touch Leonardo DiCaprio’s bizarre turn in Blood Diamond for sheer WTF:

One remarkable thing about the picture is that the soundtrack is a sort of time capsule for some of the best of mid-90s Electronica. Sadly, the songs appear to be a mere contractual obligation to sell some soundtrack CDs; none of them feature in the film for more than a few seconds, and they’re all mixed deep into the sonic background.

So, The Saint. Was it great? Nah. Was it exceedingly mediocre and inoffensively bland? You bet your ass it was.

1 comment:

yuvi said...

great piece! jar jar binks... nice.