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The Saint

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Saint

Starring: Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue
Director: Phillip Noyce
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: April 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Rade Serbedzija, Velery Nikolaev

Review by MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4

After briefly trying on the cowl of the caped crusader, Val Kilmer has found a role that's an even better fit for his blend of charisma and cockiness--master thief The Saint. It's too bad the rest of Phillip Noyce's big budget update of the Leslie Charteris character is so mediocre that future adventures seem far from likely.

Kilmer perfectly embodies Simon Templar, an ace thief, master of disguise, and all-around rogue who uses his charms and quick wit to ensnare any woman for his personal gain. For the first time, Simon reaches a crisis of conscience when he develops genuine feelings for scientist Dr. Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), who holds the commodity which he has been hired by a mafia-affiliated Russian billionaire (Rade Serbedzija) to steal--a working formula for cold fusion.

Kilmer has a perfect grasp on the character, pulling off convincing accents in his different guises (the fairly plain makeup work, however, does leave something to be desired), and keeping a great sense of humor throughout. Simon is not only good at what he does, but he has a lot of fun doing it. On the other side of the token, there's the completely miscast Shue. Emma is supposed to be kooky yet so brilliant as to perfect a formula that many scientists have been trying to discover for years. We first meet Emma when she lectures a class on cold fusion. The scene is absolutely crucial to establishing the credibility of the character, and Shue blows it. She plays up the character's quirks and nervous foibles, and any hint of real intelligence is lost in the process. Instead of being brilliant yet kooky, Emma is just kooky--kooky and vacuous.

The character of Emma also gets short shrift from screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick. One of Emma's key defining traits is a heart ailment she's had since childhood, and early on a lot is made of her need for medication. But lo and behold, act three rolls around and suddenly Emma's heart condition is written off in a single line of dialogue. Hensleigh and Strick also don't give any convincing reasons as to why Simon would feel any differently about Emma than any of the other women he's used. The implication is that Emma "understands" the real Simon, but their relationship isn't developed thoroughly enough to make that clear.

The lackluster romance shouldn't come as too big a surprise, since The Saint is directed by Noyce, a skilled craftsman whose work, most recently the Jack Ryan films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger and the voyeuristic thriller Sliver, is characterized by their technical achievement and emotional chilliness. Noyce creates a number of exciting and suspenseful moments, in particular an extended chase midway, and the film is visually enthralling. But with the "heart" of the picture, the romance between Simon and Emma, so unconvincing, it's easy to just be superficially interested in the picture without really caring about the people involved.

Simon Templar is an interesting character with infinite promise as the protagonist in a series of films, and Val Kilmer is the perfect man for the job, but based on this unexceptional initial outing, Kilmer may soon regret giving up his Batman meal ticket.

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