The Saint

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At the Saint Ignatius Orphanage, a rebellious boy named John Rossi refers to himself as “Simon Templar” and leads a group of fellow orphans as they attempt to run away to escape their harsh treatment. When Simon is caught by the head priest, he witnesses the tragic death of a girl he had taken a liking to when she accidentally falls from a balcony.

As an adult, Simon (Val Kilmer)—now a professional thief dubbed “The Saint” for using the names of Catholic saints as aliases—steals a valuable microchip belonging to a Russian oil company. Simon stages the burglary during a political rally held for the company’s owner, Ivan Tretiak (Rade Šerbedžija). Tretiak is a former Communist party boss and a billionaire oil and gas oligarch that is rallying support against the Russian President. Simon is caught in the act by Tretiak’s son Ilya (Valery Nikolaev) but escapes with the microchip. After learning of the heist, Tretiak contacts Simon and hires him to steal a revolutionary cold fusion formula discovered by American electrochemist Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue). He wishes to acquire Emma’s formula—which creates clean, inexpensive energy—so he can monopolize the energy market during a severe oil shortage in Russia.

Using the alias “Thomas More,” Simon poses as an Afrikaner and steals the formula after having a one night stand with Emma. Tretiak learns Emma’s formula is incomplete and orders his henchmen, led by his son Ilya, to kill Simon and kidnap Emma in order to obtain the remaining information. Heartbroken, Emma reports the theft to Inspector Teal (Alun Armstrong) and Inspector Rabineau (Charlotte Cornwell) of Scotland Yard, who inform her Simon is a wanted international thief. Emma tracks down Simon to a hotel in Moscow and confronts him about the theft and his betrayal. The Russian police, loyal to Tretiak, arrest Simon and Emma. However, they manage to escape from the police van as they are being brought to Tretiak’s mansion.

As they flee through the suburbs, Simon and Emma are helped by a prostitute and her family who shelter them in a hidden room in their home. Later, they meet “Frankie” (Irina Apeksimova), a fence who sells them the directions through an underground sewer system that lead to the American embassy. Simon and Emma exit the sewer tunnel only to find Ilya and his men waiting for them among a gathering of protestors outside the embassy’s front gates. Emma safely makes it to the embassy for political asylum, while Simon allows himself to be caught by Ilya as a distraction. He escapes after rigging a car bomb that severely burns Ilya.

Simon plants a listening device in Tretiak’s office and learns he plans to perform a coup d’état by selling the cold fusion formula to Russian President Karpov to frame him for wasting billions on useless technology. Tretiak then plans to use the political fallout to install himself as President. Emma finishes the equations to complete the formula, and Simon delivers the information to Tretiak’s physicist, Dr. Lev Botkin (Henry Goodman), who builds an apparatus which proves the formula works. Simon infiltrates the President’s Kremlin residence and informs him of Tretiak’s conspiracy just before Tretiak loyalists detain him. In front of a massive gathering in Red Square, Tretiak makes public accusations against President Karpov, but when the cold fusion reactor is successfully initiated, Tretiak is exposed as a fraud and arrested. He is also revealed to have caused the heating oil shortage in Moscow by illegally stockpiling vast amounts of heating oil underneath his mansion.

Sometime later, at a news conference at the University of Oxford, Emma presents her cold fusion formula to the world. Simon attends the conference in disguise and once again avoids being captured by Inspectors Teal and Rabineau when they spot him in the crowd. As he drives away, he listens to a news radio broadcast (voiced by Roger Moore) reporting that $3 billion was recently donated to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It is implied that Simon, who had access to Tretiak’s accounts, donated the money anonymously. Furthermore, a non-profit foundation led by Dr. Botkin is being established to develop the cold fusion technology.

REVIEW:

This weekend a TV spy show from yesteryear will be jumping to the big screen with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This is not the first time an old show has made such a jump. Sometimes these films work and sometimes they don’t. Let’s find out what side The Saint fall on, shall we?

What is this about?

Master thief Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) eludes his pursuers by assuming the names of obscure saints. When a Russian politician (Rade Serbedzija) hires Templar to steal the formula for cold fusion, he falls in love with Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), the frail Oxford scientist who has unlocked the process’ secret. Back in Moscow, Templar must decide whether to betray his new love or the madman who’s paying him millions.

What did I like?

Change it up. Many spy movies seem to forget the art of disguise, a technique that our titular hero uses as his forte. These days we may have forgotten that Val Kilmer is quite the charming actor, but back in the late 80s and 90s he was on top of the world. Kilmer switches into at least 10 different costumes, maybe more, and each is a character of their own. Why is this so special when comedians do it all the time? Just that, Kilmer isn’t a comedian, so for him to do this and create unique character shows some actual acting chops that have been grossly underutilized.

Science-y stuff. Most of the time when films start talking about science related mumbo jumbo, that is what it sounds like to the general audience, mumbo jumbo. Knowing that very few people who would be going in to watch this film are going to be in possession of or working on some sort of higher level science degree, the explanation of cold fusion was kept pretty simple. For the benefit of those that do want that challenge, they could just read the formulas.

Homage. Simon Templar is a character that has existed since the 1930s, appearing in all forms of media. At one time he was even portrayed by the great Vincent Price. A nice little touch that the filmmakers added in is the voice of Roger Moore, who has played the world’s greatest spy, James Bond. That’s not all, though. In the 60s, Moore was the titular character in a 60s television series, so it was a nice little touch to bring him in.

What didn’t I like?

Death and consequences. In the first scenes of the film, we get a bit of a background on young Simon Templar, complete with tragedy as the young girl he apparently fancied fell to her death as they were all trying to escape Catholic school. Two things bother me about this. First, after seeing her death, we fast forward to the present and nothing is ever said about what happened as a result or about his training. Second, around the film’s climax Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue are trying to escape the Russian mobsters. One of the escape routes is to jump off the roof. There is a quick flash of the dead little girl, implying that there is some repressed trauma there, but the film never does anything with it, which seems like such a waste.

Police. I feel like I should say something about the bumbling cops, but the fact is they weren’t really bumbling. They were smart enough to deduce that Templar was using disguises, so there is that. My issue with them is that they seemed unnecessary. If anything, they could have showed up as comic relief. The one time they did have something worthwhile to do was when Elisabeth Shue came to them to report her missing/stolen formula cards. I may be making too big a deal out of this though. I’m not the biggest fan of the police.

Cold blooded. Maybe it is the heat down here getting to me (we have been under a heat advisory since Monday), but I really have to question how you can not have enough resources to keep your people, who live in a cold climate, warm during the winter. Even our government, as corrupt and money hungry as they may be, would find a way to keep most people warm during the winter, because if they lose people, they lose money and votes, and that’s all that matters, right? I just don’t get how this Russian president let things get so dire before he even attempted to do anything.

Final verdict on The Saint? It fell short of my expectations. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of The Shadow but instead I got a 2nd or 3rd rate Bond rip-off. That said, there are enjoyable moments in here, Kilmer and Shue turn in great performances, and the writing isn’t too bad. Still, if you ask me to recommend it, I don’t believe I can do that. Better to just watch one of the 007 films.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “The Saint”

  1. Michael E. Stamm Says:

    The filmmakers could have made pretty much the same movie without trying to capitalize on a protagonist who’s been a stalwart of pop fiction since the late 1920s. This film was–given that intent–an incomprehensible piece of crap.

  2. Roger Moore has a financial interest in The Saint. he was there from the start of the film.

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