Things can't get much worse than this.

THE SAINT

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Things can't get much worse than this. In "The Saint," the suave Simon Templar of early TV days has fallen into the hands of director Phillip Noyce, who apparently has no idea what flavor he wants to use in his recipe for adventure. The movie fails as a spy movie, fails as a spoof. Scare us, surprise us, or at least make us smile at the outrageous. But don't let us down.

For a very short while, the movie promises style: Val Kilmer in black goggles and wet suit is ready to take on the Russians over a microchip. Fair enough. But even then, hints of ineptitude surface. The Russians, uniformly dressed in black leather and fur, are slapstick figures. We have here a father (who is threatening to bring down the government) and his nasty, ugly, no-good son who literally run, hair flying behind them, around Moscow in such a terminally silly way that the movie begins to tremble. Where are you, Goldfinger?

Still hoping, we latch onto the technical stuff--listening devices, circuit boards, handheld computers--but these too prove to be pedestrian. So let's have some fun watching Val Kilmer play with Simon's many disguises. He uses a wondrous array of wigs and garments to get wherever he needs to go, but here's the hitch: he looks silly, not suave. Compounding the insult, Mr. Kilmer talks in the worst imaginable accents of Russian, German, and cool-dude American when his role demands the polished multilingualism of a sophisticated spy.

One hope left: the appealing Elizabeth Shue as Emma Russell, improbable physicist who has developed cold fusion to the point where it can heat the world, power automobiles, and save the environment. With the formula written on four Post-it notes tucked in her bra, she accepts Simon as lover/protector.

Imagine what Ian Fleming would have done with this. His women pulled off impossible deeds with outlandish style and grace. But our Emma wears kneesocks and suffers fits of girlish giggles. That's how we know she's a physicist. When Emma falls for Simon in his long-haired poet mode, the movie suffers a mortal wound. The scene is appallingly awful.

The real embarrassment of this movie is that it takes itself seriously for long periods and then adds the kind of exclamation point that has Simon disguised as a cleaning woman in an office where the villains plot the overthrow of the government. After all the slapstick, we almost avert our eyes when poor Emma and Simon explore sincerely why he has no name, no identity other than disguise. That premise would have sustained a plot written with wit and a cast that could act with a lilt and a wink.

Instead: a Russian leader who talks in American slang, a scar-faced dolt of a villain, much heavy breathing, a literal rat race in a Russian nightclub, a hero who looks silly most of the time. What's missing? Ian Fleming and Sean Connery.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Paramount Pitures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h55m


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