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David L. Cunningham
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Lou Diamond Phillips,
The nature of temptation. Banks is a hit man, the best, usually working for Latin American drug cartels. He picks up solitary women, uses them briefly for a job, then kills them. He's in the Southwest, headed toward Mexico, when he picks up Bennie, a woman leaving an abusive marriage, going to Paradise, Arizona. The film follows three tracks: Banks's slow recruitment of Bennie, the set-up for the hit at a swank resort in Mexico, and the FBI's close pursuit of Banks, whom they want alive in hopes he'll rat out his bosses. Bennie may not be who she seems, and there may be a chink in Banks's tough-guy armor. Guns, money, and a chance at Paradise... Written by
Desert Saints is a surprisingly good 'hitman with a twist' tale by first time writer/director Richard Greenberg. He takes the standard 'assassin's last hit' formula, and shakes it up by introducing FBI agents with their own agendas, a 'plant' who may or may not be falling for the gunman, and, in Kiefer Sutherland, a hero/villain who is ruthless, sexy, and, ultimately, sympathetic. His performance is remarkable, and is matched by Melora Walters, as the latest of his string of doomed accomplices, who is keeping even more secrets than he is! She shows a remarkable range in her role, at times ditzy, at times mysterious and sexy, and, by the film's climax, intelligent and self-sufficient.
For an indie, the cast is first-rate all the way, with the always reliable Jamey Sheridan as a veteran FBI agent, as dedicated to his job as Sutherland is to his; Leslie Stefanson as Sheridan's second-in-command, and the wild card of the operation; and, in a very sexy cameo, Rachel Ticotin, who smolders as a waitress and occasional bedmate for Sutherland.
Greenberg cleverly uses flashbacks and flashforwards to lull the viewer into believing they know how the story will end, then springs a surprise that works extremely well, and will have you paying VERY close attention to detail during the last five minutes! While the ambiguous ending may disappoint some viewers, it offers a clever 'capper' to this tale of betrayal, and works for me!
If you are a fan of Sutherland, or stories with a twist and enough sensuality to raise your heartbeat a few notches, 'Desert Saints' is the film for you!
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