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The Saint

Saint, The (1997) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  116m  •    •  Directed by: Phillip Noyce.  •  Starring: Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, Rade Serbedzija, Valeriy Nikolaev, Henry Goodman, Alun Armstrong, Michael Byrne, Evgeniy Lazarev, Irina Apeksimova, Lev Prygunov, Charlotte Cornwell, Emily Mortimer, Lucija Serbedzija.  •  Music by: Graeme Revell.
       Simon Templar has no real family, no real home and Simon Templar isn't even his real name. Yet Simon Templar , also known as the Saint for his use of creating false identities using the names of Catholic saints,is one of the world's most successful thieves. Slick, debonair and a master of disguise, Simon manages to outwit the police again and again. On his next job Simon is hired by the Russian Mafia to steal a cold fusion energy formula from scientist Emma Russel, however the mission backfires as he falls for the pretty, intelligent scientist. Simon and his new love must now manage to outwit the Russian Mafia and work out the energy formula before the worst happens and the US is affected forever.

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Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
Image from: Saint, The (1997)
The cliffhanger escapes, the dastardly villains, and the superbly staged action scenes in "The Saint" are good enough to compensate for the poor casting, slipshod writing, and last-minute script alterations that plague this hagiography. Val Kilmer, fresh from the respectable "Ghost and the Darkness" and the lukewarm "Island of Dr. Moreau," steps into the role of the suave, debonair gentleman adventurer. Kilmer makes the most of the multi-dimensional role. The Leslie Charteris literary hero is a cat burglar, escape artist, gigolo, electronics wizard, man of a thousand faces, and confidence man who survives by the skin of his wits. Although this glossy, $70-million-plus epic is a dazzling looking romantic thriller, "The Saint" sinks if you think too much about its hi-jinks.

"The Saint" is a kind of freelance 007. Since he escaped from an abusive Catholic school in the Far East at age five, Simon Templar has been amassing a fortune. Templar refuses to retired until his bank account tops $50-million. Lately, the Saint has been sparring with Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serberdzija of "Manifesto"), a long-haired Russian tycoon who runs the mafia in Moscow. A shortage of heating fuel has crippled Mother Russia in the dead of winter. Hundreds are freezing. Ivan wants to parlay the heating crisis into a way to topple Russian president Karpov (Eugeny Lazarev of "The Ice Runner"). As it turns out, an astute American scientist, Dr. Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue of "Adventures in Babysitting") has devised a formula for something called cold fusion that can save Russians and help Tretiak make more marks in Russians eyes than Lenin. Tretiak turns to the Saint to steal the secret formula from Emma.

Australian director Philip Noyce spent his last two assignments putting Harrison Ford through the paces of "Patriot Games" and "A Clear and Present Danger." "Die Hard with a Vengeance" scribe Jonathan Hensleigh co-scripted "The Saint" with "Cape Fear" writer Wesley Strick. Despite their considerable talent and imagination, they faltered in their efforts to fit the character into the 1990s. For the record, Charteris wrote 90 original Saint Novels beginning with "Meet the Tiger" (1928) and ending with "Salvage for the Saint" (1983).

When we first spot him, the Saint is getting flogged by a priest because he won't conform. The child rebels and escapes from the school, but not before he causes the death of his childhood sweetheart. Kilmer's Simon Templar has a politically correct dark side because he feels guilty about the girl's accidental death. Incidentally, "The Saint" is a chick flick. Val bares his chest, but Elizabeth Shue doesn't. While "The Saint contains Indiana Jones-style derring-do, the film never drenches itself in blood, gore, nudity, or profanity. You don't have to shield your eyes from anything offensive. "The Saint" amounts to a one-man "Mission Impossible" with the emphasis on serio-comic romance and danger. Eventually, the Saint and the scientist team up to take on the bad guys. The Russian winters appear picture postcard perfect as captured by lenser Phil Meheux, and "The Saint" makes splendid use of Red Square and other notable sights. And it's not Kilmer's Saint who gives the Russians the formula for fire, but Shue's soft-hearted scientist.

The problem here is that Shue is woefully miscast as a nerdy she-scientist. She is a great actress, but she just doesn't fit the role. "The Saint" asks us to believe that a babe like Shue could be a brilliant scientist. Actually, she would have been more credibly cast as the babe daughter of a brilliant scientist. More than likely Hensleigh and Strick have compressed two characters into one character. They then ask us to believe that a scientist as brilliant as she is would abandon her principles for Kilmer's pectorals. She confides in Simon that he never had to steal what she was willing to give away. This almost makes it all too easy for Simon. Oh, yes, how many brilliant scientists store their secret formulas on scrap pieces of paper in their brassiere? Finally, Hensleigh and Strick dream up a flaw for Shue's scientist; she suffers from heart disease. There is nothing wrong with a character who has flaws. They even feature a scene where the Saint nearly freezes to save her heart pills from floating down river. There is nothing wrong with that either. Except by the end of the movie, however, Shue's brilliant scientist no longer requires her heart medication. So why did they make such a big fuss about them in the first place? This is another sign that the writers have their halos on crooked.

As heroes go, "The Saint" isn't so much a saint to cheer as a sultan to envy. Indeed, Kilmer's Cupid good-looks will seduce the ladies, but the guys will lust after his new candy-apple red Volvo C-70 coupe, his playboy lifestyle, padded bank account, and eternal ability to outsmart his foe. If there were ever a movie that sold itself on the charisma of its protagonist, "The Saint" does, with a pasha's price tag. Sadly, in terminating one "Saint" for a more venerable "Saint," the filmmakers have sold out not only a sound plot line but the character's literary heritage. If you looking for fast, breezy nonsense that look fantastic, "The Saint" is worth a peek.


Review by zardoz-13 from the Internet Movie Database.