Film Scouts Reviews

"The Saint"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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For those not familiar with "The Saint" from either Leslie Chateris' novels, George Saunders' movie portrayal in the forties, or Roger Moore's TV series, the concept is that of a sophisticated thief who outwits the mob, Interpol, and all security systems. I didn't notice any of the little plot holes or predictability until my hubby pointed them out, because I was too busy watching Val Kilmer. "This theater just kept getting hotter," I complained to hubby. Well, maybe it was just my temperature rising as Val changes costumes, make-up, and accent. Suave and debonair, he just gets better-looking with each passing moment. I was not as charmed by the attempts at little-girl-look given to Elisabeth Shue, a natural All-American beauty. Those little hair clips should be banned. Thankfully, she overcomes the costuming attempts in her role as the American scientist who develops cold fusion and thereby makes herself a target for Russian espionage.

All this good looks is balanced by a strong script going in to new Saint territory, and actors who may be new to Americans but are truly gifted. The Saint has been thrilling readers, movie goers and TV watchers since 1928, but no one has ever explained his origins as thief and magician until now. After getting through his childhood traumas, Simon Templar takes on the changing Russian political scene. Director Phillip Noyce had the great good sense to cast Russians in Russia. Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija is the industrialist with the plan involving Simon Templar's skills as thief and seducer. Serbedzija has starred in over forty films in the former Yugoslavia, co-founded the KPGT Theater, and toured Australia with the theater company in 1980. He is so refreshingly real! And his daughter Lucija also has a small part in "The Saint" as Sofiya, the tart. Valery Nikolaev is the son of Servejzija's character, and I'd better add his name to my spell-check. He does a bang-up job as Templar's arch-enemy and recently completed Oliver Stone's "U-Turn" with Sean Penn and Nick Nolte. We'll be seeing more from him, I'm certain.

All of this is masterfully assembled by director Noyce, an Australian who caught my attention and everyone else's with "Dead Calm" starring those Aussie favorites Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill. Obviously the guy knows a thing or two about directing suspense, and used it in his subsequent "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" starring Harrison Ford. I predict "The Saint" will be big box office since there aren't any more "Star Wars" releases this week. And producer Robert Evans could use a hit after "The Phantom", "Jade", and "Sliver". It has been a long time for Evans since "Chinatown", "Marathon Man", or even "Urban Cowboy". But that's another story. For now, stick with "The Saint" for non-James-Bond depth in an action thriller. And just try to tell me that Val Kilmer isn't the best looking thief since Robert Wagner. Rated R, Paramount Pictures.

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