Dull Story, Poor Acting Are Sins Of ‘The Saint’

Val Kilmer puts on many disguises in “The Saint,” but they mask neither his own wooden performance nor the leaden dynamic of this Paramount release.

In this topical but dull scenario, Kilmer stars as the epicurean master thief Simon Templar whose voracious appetite for big-time bucks as a savvy international thief knows no bounds. Simon’s approaching the $50 million goal he has set for himself, and not overly burdened with ethics, he looks quickly forward to exiting his occupation with wads of Swiss-bank cash.

Cynical and self-absorbed, Simon doesn’t expect to get waylaid in any kind of modern scam. As such, he’s sucked into the life of an idealistic scientist, Emma (Elisabeth Shue), whose life is in danger owing to the thuggery of post-glasnost Russia.

In a story line sagely put together from contemporary headlines, screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick have patched a tall but believable tale about crime in modern-day Red Square, and, not surprisingly, they’ve fitted it around a megalomaniac leader (Rade Serbedzija) who is obsessed with not only ruling the former Soviet republics but ruling the world. Unfortunately, this bright notion is dashed by desultory writing: Unintentionally funny dialogue, preposterous plotting and weak backdrop mar the promising complications.

Further dulling the dynamic is director Phillip Noyce’s woefully slow pacing, with perfunctory exposition scenes clotting the caper. There is little spark nor polished sheen in this dull filmic facsimile, and soon the story itself dulls completely.

In essence, Kilmer does a male Julia Roberts here, trying on a lot of hats, etc. For his lead performance, one must acknowledge that Kilmer does possess many thick accents, as if having eaten a lot of gravy on Interstate 80, yet he never invigorates his performance with any personality. In all, his performance resonates with all the aplomb of an Indianapolis dentist who is doing some moonlighting as a thespian.

Shue scurries to make sense of her role of heart-stricken scientist and, to her credit, wins our affections. Perhaps best among the players is Serbedzija, whose scary performance as the vainglorious Russian billionaire sobers us to the realization that things are very out of control in that region.

Technical contributions are inconsistent: The film’s feeble story line and plot rendering is constantly overwhelmed by Graeme Revell’s overzealous score.

xxxx The Saint Location: Lincoln Heights, Newport, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls Credits: Directed by Phillip Noyce, starring Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue Running time: 1:53 Rating: PG-13

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