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Review: Disguises don't hide dullness of 'The Saint'

Kilmer Shue April 7, 1997
Web posted at: 6:23 p.m. EDT (2223 GMT)

From Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "The Saint" has been dispatched to the silver screen with hopes it will create a film franchise a la Batman or James Bond. Those hopes seem likely to be disappointed.

The story's hero is Simon Templar (a.k.a. The Saint), played by Val Kilmer. He's an isolated, aloof kind of guy. This is partly because he's a manipulative master thief who is understandably paranoid about letting people get close to him. But the real key to his alienation is that (big drum roll here from the Psychology 101 crowd) he doesn't know who he is!! Simon is an orphanage-raised bastard, you see, with no clue about his roots.

The plot is put in motion when a greedy Russian businessman hires Simon to steal a cold fusion formula from a beautiful young scientist with a bad heart. The scientist's purity of soul is such that Simon gets the guilts and has an identity crisis.

Well, actually, given the fact that he doesn't know who he is and spends a lot of time pretending to be other people, it's more of a NON-identity crisis.

Kilmer gives a smugly self-involved performance in the title role. His Simon is pretty much a cipher when he's being himself. The disguises he adopts are occasionally interesting, but largely unconvincing.


Elisabeth Shue seems embarrassingly miscast in her first few scenes as scientist Dr. Emma Russell, but she gains strength as she goes along. One can see why test audiences were so distressed at the film's original ending, in which her character died.

The most interesting work in the film comes from Rade Serbedzija (the Croatian star of "Before the Rain"). He brings persuasive pizzazz to the role of the Russian baddie who wants the cold fusion formula. Valeri Nikolayev contributes some dangerous dash as his decadent son.

Like last year's "Mission Impossible," this film's script is pointlessly convoluted. The pacing is slack; there are a lot of plot holes. Suspense is in short supply.

Although he stages a few very effective scenes (the climatic demonstration in Red Square looks great!), director Philip Noyce seems bent on sucking the fun out of this genre. His efforts to fuse boom-boom-bang-bang razzle dazzle with a semi-cerebral reflection on one man's search for an identity don't work.

"The Saint" isn't unforgivable, but it definitely falls short of being satisfying entertainment.

Running Time: 115 minutes. The film is rated PG-13. That's for violence, sexual situations (Shue and Kilmer generate a fair degree of romantic heat) substance abuse and brief strong language.


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