Welcome to the rat race - Russian style. Filthy rich members of
the Russian Mafia are dressed in black. With their hookers at their
side, they are betting on rats running in tubes. On the tables are
silver trays with stacks of U.S. hundred dollar bills, and as the loud
music plays, people are sniffing dope.
"Who are you?" asks Emma of The Saint. "Nobody has a clue -
least of all me," he replies. You will probably feel that way about
this entire movie version of THE SAINT. A hopeless muddle from
beginning to end. The convoluted plot challenges even the most
attentive viewers. Someone has stolen and then hidden all of the
heating oil in Moscow, leaving Muscovites freezing to death. With
warring factions inside the Russian government, the country stands on
the brink of the second Russian revolution. Thieves, selling priceless
art, hang out in the sewers. And the piece de resistance, the secret
to cold fusion is discovered and then stolen. I could not keep track
of the details even with my trusty notepad at my side. That everyone
wore black and shot at each other did not help me keep the characters
The show starts with the young kid known as Simon Templar (The
Saint) at an orphanage. He is mistreated so he goes on to lead a life
of crime. His recurring nightmares of the cruelty of the priests there
will affect his behavior forever. Unlike the other characterizations
of The Saint, Val Kilmer's rendition is much more heartless and
mean-spirited, that is, until he meets Emma Russell. Emma, played by
Elisabeth Shue, has just discovered how to make cold fusion work. Once
he falls in love with Emma, he is a changed man.
The show is so preposterous that I was stunned. As a critic, I do
not get shocked easily, but I was aghast at how awful the story was.
Thirty minutes into the show, I looked over at my wife, and we both
stared at each other with our mouths open. The script by Jonathan
Hensleigh and Wesley Strick and the direction by Phillip Noyce leaves
the audience dazed and confused. The show has no characters worthy of
our love or hate. A totally preposterous picture that has so many
logical inconsistencies you will lose track if you try to count them.
Let me just mention my personal favorite. Randomly, people speak in
Russian with English subtitles, but most of the time the Russians
converse in English. The inconsistency makes no sense.
As hopeless as the story is, the acting is much worse. Sometimes
there are a few bright spots in movies to help pass the time. This
show has none. The people around me begin to laugh out loud at the
acting as it was so pathetically bad. Although the support cast is as
almost as weak as the two stars, let me just stick to commenting on
Kilmer and Shue.
Kilmer's inconsistency as an actor is well known. His most recent
disgusting performance was in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, but he can be
excellent as he was in TOMBSTONE. Some critics use phrases that I
never do because I feel they are more expletives than critical
commentary. The word "self-indulgent" is one such epithet. I do not
believe I have ever used that phrase to describe an actor's work until
this review. In THE SAINT, Kilmer gives a performance that sets the
gold standard for self-indulgent acting. He delights in his disguises
from the gay guy who offers to share his lipstick to the dotty
professor with the bad teeth and the overbite. In all of these he
becomes so infatuated with himself that he insults his audience with
his overacting. Never does he take the time to develop his character.
Shue gave a marvelous, Academy Award nominated performance in
LEAVING LAS VEGAS. She played the hooker with tough realism. Not for
a minute did you doubt her performance. In THE SAINT, she gives us a
scientist who makes one of the most important discoveries of the
twentieth century but who acts like a ditzy teenager. She give us not
a single believable minute in the film.
THE SAINT, in many ways, resembles another recent remake, the film
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Although I was only able to a mild thumbs up to
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, it is a cinematic masterpiece in comparison to THE
I did learn one thing from THE SAINT. If I ever begin to die of
hypothermia, I want Elizabeth Shue nearby. The way she saved Kilmer
made it look almost worth jumping in the frozen river.
THE SAINT runs 1:57, but it will feel like an eternity. The film
is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexual situations and drug
usage. I was surprised it did not get an R rating. The film would be
fine for teenagers, but I do not think it is suitable for younger kids.
Actually, there is no reason for anybody of any age to waste their time
with THE SAINT. I give it a whole star for reasons which escape me.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes