Wednesday, 21 April 2010

No.28 : The Saint

Val Kilmer tries to fill Ian Ogilvy’s big shoes in this 1997 spy thriller which was directed by ‘Clear and Present Danger’ helmer Phillip Noyce.

We open in a Far East orphanage “yesterday" where the proto-saint is having a hard time with an Oirish priest and a group of fellow orphans, who look like they’ve just been given a half day off stage school. Our man is a rebel from the off and soon is at odds with the priest - probably had a chastity belt on or something. He shows signs of his reckless side and after a booty call on his young love tragedy strikes which sets the course for our man’s life.

We jump forward to “today” and meet the grown up Saint in the shape of Val Kilmer on a robbery. We learn that he is a master of disguise and accents, as long as the disguise and accent is that of Val Kilmer. He manages to escape with the loot and in the process makes an enemy of a mafia boss’s son and makes himself a target of the mob.

The mob are however impressed and use some early email to enlist The Saint’s help in securing some cold fusion technology being developed by unfeasibly young and blonde scientist Elisabeth Shue. The mob do however vow to bump Val off once they have the goods - like any other possibility would ever be considered.

Val descends on England and gets Elisabeth down to her bra in nothing flat before scampering off with the formula. The mob are however unimpressed as they can't make the formula work and therefore set off a gang of hired goons to kill Val and kidnap Lizzy. The two get over the awkward ‘humped and dumped’ situation pretty quickly and are soon tearing through the streets of Moscow with the bad guys in pursuit. Can Val change his ways? Will the mob utilise the discovery to start a revolution? And will Elisabeth’s heart condition and Val’s childhood loss be forgotten in a hasty re-edit? - that last one for sure.

I actually enjoyed this film despite misgivings going into it. I remember on release it got terrible reviews and most focused on what a tit Val Kilmer was in real life. It’s a bit of a shame really as the film is a clear forerunner to the Bourne franchise with real violence and workable gadgets rather than the James Bond fantasies which were running at the same time.

The film hangs on Kilmer’s performance and I thought he was pretty good. At points when he was doing his Aussie accent or when he was dressed up as on old hag it got pretty close to farce but overall I think he pulled it off. His goofy professor character was a bit too much but overall the make up and his mannerisms won me over. His motivations were a bit weak with his ambition to make $50 million and then retire never really followed through. His romance with Shue didn’t totally convince but that was more down to her, with her brilliant scientist a giggly school girl in his presence.

The action scenes were well realised although largely low key. There’s no Bond style destruction here but the authentic locations and the odd explosion managed to keep my interest. The film does start to taper off towards the climax with the baddies public lab experiment perhaps the weediest incitement to revolution that you’ll ever see - why did they just not plug it in?

The bad guys are your usual clan of gangsters and bent army men but I did like the gangster’s son with the metal headed stick who managed to hold his own with the Saint in their kicking contests. He gets horribly burned near the end and it looked like his real resolution was cut out for a dull arrest instead.

The original Saint got barely a look in with only a Saint logo badge and Roger Moore on the radio stuffed in at the end to make it anything to do with the source material. The fast pace and elements of danger were well done and although it skirted the ridiculous a few times it stayed just this side of credible. I liked the film and it’s a shame it never made it as a franchise.

THE Tag Line : Saint Not As Bad As You've Heard 69%

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