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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'The Saint'

31 March 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Val Kilmer puts on many disguises in "The Saint", but they mask neither his own wooden performance nor the leaden dynamic of this Paramount release. Look for "The Saint" to open with some measure of beneficent offering, but then, based on negative word-of-mouth, to do a prolonged term in boxoffice purgatory.

In this topical but dull scenario, Kilmer stars as the epicurean master thief Simon Templar whose voracious appetite for big-time bucks as a savvy international thief knows no bounds. Simon's approaching the $50 million goal he has set for himself, and not overly burdened with ethics, he looks quickly forward to exiting his occupation with wads of Swiss-bank cash.

Cynical and self-absorbed, Simon doesn't expect to get waylaid in any kind of modern scam. As such, he's sucked into the life of an idealistic scientist, Emma (Elisabeth Shue), whose life is in danger owing to the thuggery of post-glasnost Russia.

In a story line sagely put together from contemporary headlines, screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick have patched a tall but believable tale about crime in modern-day Red Square, and, not surprisingly, they've fitted it around a megalomaniac leader (Rade Serbedzija) who is obsessed with not only ruling the former Soviet republics but ruling the world. Unfortunately, this bright notion is dashed by desultory writing: Unintentionally funny dialogue, preposterous plotting and weak backdrop mar the promising complications.

Further dulling the dynamic is director Phillip Noyce's woefully slow pacing, with perfunctory exposition scenes clotting the caper. There is little spark nor polished sheen in this dull filmic facsimile, and soon the story itself dulls completely.

In essence, Kilmer does a male Julia Roberts here, trying on a lot of hats, etc. For his lead performance, one must acknowledge that Kilmer does possess many thick accents, as if having eaten a lot of gravy on Interstate 80, yet he never invigorates his performance with any personality. In all, his performance resonates with all the aplomb of an Indianapolis dentist who is doing some moonlighting as a thespian.

Shue scurries to make sense of her role of heart-stricken scientist and, to her credit, wins our affections. Perhaps best among the players is Serbedzija, whose stirringly scary performance as the vainglorious Russian billionaire sobers us to the realization that things are very out of control in that region.

Technical contributions are inconsistent: The film's feeble story line and plot rendering is constantly overwhelmed by Graeme Revell's overzealous score. In addition, the dark scopings of cinematographer Phil Meheux add little in the way of thematic counterpoint to this murky, sin-filled "Saint".


Paramount Pictures

in association with Rysher Entertainment

A David Brown and Robert Evans production

Producers David Brown, Robert Evans,

William J. MacDonald

Director Phillip Noyce

Screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh, Wesley Strick

Story Jonathan Hensleigh

Director of photography Phil Meheux

Production designer Joseph Nemec III

Editor Terry Rawlings

Executive producers Paul Hitchcock,

Robert S. Baker

Associate producer Lis Kern

Music Graeme Revell

Costume designer Marlene Stewart

Casting Patsy Pollock, Elisabeth Leustig

Sound mixer Ivan Sharrock



Simon Templar Val Kilmer

Dr. Emma Russell Elisabeth Shue

Ivan Tretiak Rade Serbedzija

Ilya Tretiak Valery Nikolaev

Dr. Lev Botvin Henry Goodman

Chief Inspector Teal Alun Armstrong

Tretiak's aide Michael Byrne

Running time -- 113 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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