The Saint (1997)
Kilmer's Impossible Mission to become Saintly
You have to be a very good, and usually very dead person to become a saint. And more importantly, you need to work three miracles. Now, get to work - Simon Templar
Whilst his "Top Gun" buddy Tom Cruise wowed audiences with his action thriller "Mission: Impossible" it seems that Val Kilmer tried to follow in his foot steps with "The Saint", although I would imagine "The Saint" came about due to the increased popularity of James Bond with Pierce Brosnan playing Britain's greatest agent. Taking the character created by Leslie Charteris and later played in the popular 60s TV series by Roger Moore "The Saint" is another movie which tries to bring an old TV series to a new movie going audience. Try being the operative word because quite frankly it fails to really work.
Having already escaped the clutches of the Russian Mafia as he steals a micro chip from a heavily secured safe, master criminal Simon Templar (Val Kilmer - Tombstone) finds himself being hired by the same Russians to steal the formula for Cold Fusion from a beautiful scientist, Dr. Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue - Leaving Las Vegas). But a simple job becomes more complicated when he falls for the scientist and decides to renege on his contract with the Russians who declare revenge on both Templar and Dr. Russell.
In an attempt to deliver some sort of back story to the character of Simon Templar "The Saint" starts at the orphanage where we meet a young Simon who has a fanciful imagination. It's a nice idea, give us some back history so we understand why Templar not only took that name but basically became a master thief, but it's wasted because what we learn is not enough and something which seems critically important in these few opening moments ends up having nothing to do with the rest of the movie. It means that this quick journey back to childhood is padding to swell a movie which to be frank doesn't end up needing it.
Aside from the opening the rest of "The Saint" ends up being totally devoid of originality as we get a series of stereotypical set ups. We learn that Templar is now a highly paid master thief, who takes a job to steal some formula for cold fusion from a beautiful scientist who you guess it he falls in love with and then battles the Russian Mafia who are paying him to do the job. It's not in the least bit exciting, almost a light weight version of any James Bond movie except instead of Templar being a spy is instead a well paid crook, a likable one at that. In fact it gets to a point where you stop paying attention to what is happening in the story as you wait for the next dose of action which at least injects some interest into proceedings.
Carrying on from the unoriginal storyline many of the embellishments feel like they have been pinched from other movies. So we learn that Templar is a master of disguise, something which is hard to believe seeing that many of the disguises make Val Kilmer look like Jim Morrison from The Doors and is pretty much a copy of what we watched in "Mission: Impossible" with Tom Cruises latex disguises. We get the romance between Templar and Dr. Emma Russell who firstly is far to weak to be believable as some great scientist and also the chemistry, that spark of believable sexual interest is never on show. And finally we get the action, various explosions often caused by some clever gizmo that Templar uses. It's all frankly been seen before and done superiorly in many other movies, making much of what goes on in "The Saint" feel like a poor imitation.
As for the performances well no matter how hard I tried Val Kilmer just never delivered that suave sophistication from a character which is meant to be a gentleman thief, one who is so good at what he does he is paid millions. In the scenes where Kilmer is not hidden behind some light weight disguise he is actually quite entertaining but with the majority of the movie featuring him wearing dodgy wigs and moustaches much of it is quite laughable. It's not helped that their is zero chemistry between Kilmer and his co-star Elisabeth Shue who looks great, has a terrific smile but is just a little too nice to be believable as this scientist who cracks Cold Fusion.
In a strange way there is more fun to be had, especially from a British perspective, looking at the supporting cast. Emily Mortimer turns up as a woman on the plane, Cliff Parisi who is better known as Minty in Eastenders has a small part as a pub waiter and Michael Byrne who plays Vereshagin one of the Russian Mafia is now more recognizable as Gail's dad in Coronation Street. But the funniest one is Rade Serbedzija who plays Ivan Tretiak because he then went on to star in "Mission: Impossible II".
The thing is that "The Saint" partly fails because of when it came out, we already had the revitalized James Bond with Pierce Brosnan and just had Tom Cruise playing the action hero in "Mission: Impossible" so to get such another similar sort of movie was in my opinion just over crowding the market. If "the Saint" had come before "Mission: Impossible" we could quite possibly seen it succeed with several sequels, it certainly sets up an ending to allow for another movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Saint" quite frankly is not the great movie it could have been. It gives us all those expected elements, the action, the romance, the gadgets and a simple storyline but it just feels a little weak as if it couldn't compete with similar movies from around the time it was released. It's not helped that whilst Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue are good actors they are just wrong for the sort of characters they had to play, making it all a little too unbelievable.
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