There are actually two reasons why I decided to review this movie for Faceplant! today. One of the reasons is rather selfish, and the other one is because of something that has been bothering me for at least ten years, something that has caused me such great distress that I’ve never discussed it with anyone. It gets kind of complicated. Just keep in mind that I’m not really one who typically plunks down in front of two solid hours of Val Kilmer due to some other fuzzy memories on the edge of my peripheral that I don’t fully recall but have a sense of unease about. I’m not even really sure what other Val Kilmer movies I’ve ever watched, which is a little odd.
So bear with me here as I attempt to explain how I started down the path of cold fusion, freezing Russians, and somewhat odd plot turns. Probably spoilers ahoy!
Following the explosive success of The Fifth Element post, I decided to run a bit of a test. People weren’t just searching for Milla Jovovich in skimpy medical bandages! Something else was at work here. I determined it was probably because the movie was from the late 1990s, and began the selfish plan to review a movie from that time period in an attempt to capitalize on cult classics.
Unfortunately, The Matrix isn’t available for direct streaming from Netflicks (Oh, come on- quit rolling those eyes. That’s EXACTLY the kind of crapfest I’d love to review). While searching the queue, however, I stumbled across The Saint, and my heart skipped a beat. Time froze. I sat there, staring in the face of a 13-year-old anxiety, unsure of how to proceed.
I was never really into music when I was younger. It was actually only somewhat recently, thanks to an Andrew W.K. indoctrination from my college room-mate, the soundtrack from Tim Schaffer’s Brutal Legend, and the magic of Pandora Radio. I’ve come to develop an inexplicable love for ridiculously over-the-top metal. I have, however, owned a CD holder booklet that pre-dates this epiphany, which for as long as I can remember held little more than my impressive collection of Weird Al Yankovich CDs.
Since my headfirst dive into metal, though, I’ve busted out the old holder again and put in some new artists. Every time I opened the holder I passed by the first few pages of old artists automatically, but one CD made me pause. I own a copy of the soundtrack to The Saint.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.
Over the past ten years the CD has been a huge source of unease for me. I can’t remember ever watching the Saint before this weekend. I had no idea what the plot was, who the actors were, or when it even came out. I left it in the CD holder perpetually, worried that the CD wasn’t actually mine and that some day I’d run into its actual owner, who would have a gun with a silencer and a trench coat asking if I still had The Package. I didn’t know if it was supposed to invoke some kind of feeling deep within me, stir up some kind of memory, maybe some kind of code needed by secret spies to unravel a world of deceit. In the (apparently) 13 years I’ve owned the CD I’ve never listened to it once.
I considered asking Elrood about this. We would have been in seventh grade when the movie was released, which means he might remember ANY of this stuff taking place. But… what if the CD actually belongs to Elrood?! The only thing worse than stealing The Saint soundtrack is to not be aware that you have done it for over a decade.
Anyway, I decided to put this anxiety to bed once and for all, took a deep breath and booted up the movie.
As it turns out, The Saint is about a suave Catholic super spy/thief with dead girlfriend issues. The movie begins in a Catholic orphanage for young bastards. And by bastards in this case, I mean children who don’t really know who their fathers are, and not bastards as in total assholes like Enosh. The children are given new names, each named after an important saint from the history of the Catholic church. One kid refuses to acknowledge his new name and gets the tar beaten out of him by a priest before self naming himself Simon Templar and leading all the young lads and lasses to freedom. But, you know, not before his girlfriend Agnes takes a header off a balcony straight into dead town.
This is an important plot point!!
Years later, Simon (who is played by Val Kilmer) is a thief! Simon is stealing his way toward a magical 50 million dollar bank account, wherein he promises to call it quits. After stealing an unexplained microchip from a shady billionaire political pundit (Rade Serbedzija) and his ruthless be-caned son (Valeri Nikolayev), Simon gets wrapped up in a plot to take over Russia by accepting a job to steal the formula for cold fusion from
hot brilliant scientist Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue).
Simon’s got no real identity, per say. But he can get the job done by relying on a variety of constructed personalities, each named after Catholic saints. Things take a turn, however, when he falls in love with Emma while seducing her to steal her notes.
THEN COME THE HYJINKS.
Each of the actors plays their roles well, though each character seems a bit flat, a little dead. Elisabeth Shue has the hardest work here, since Emma is really the only character whose personality is dissected by Simon in the film. Shue manages to pull of her lines with varying degrees of success, though some of the pauses I think I might have to attribute to poor writing. Some of the things Emma do in the movie don’t make a whole lot of sense. She spends much of the movie chasing after Simon, trusting him completely, even though she’s totally aware that the man’s a total fraud. I dunno about you guys, but finding out that someone essentially stalked me, spied on me, and then tailored an identity solely with the intent to seduce and rob me, I think that’d be a pretty big deal breaker.
Simon’s actually a bit one-dimensional. Yes, yes, we get it, you’re haunted by your dead childhood girlfriend. What else do you have? Oh, that’s actually about it. Shit.
The villains are standard cookie cutter crooks. Serbedzija plays Ivan Tretiak, who seeks to RULE RUSSIA by creating scandals and engineering a heating crisis to usurp power from the Russia’s current leadership. Nikolayev plays his violent son, who has about six one liners in the movie and about a million bewildered stares and evil glares. They don’t have any other defining traits. They just want power.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie’s not exactly bad. It hits all the right notes along the way. There are tons of chase scenes, high stakes bargaining, and a few scenes of goons firing machine guns blindly to keep your attention, but Simon’s forte is on stealth. Once the action gets started you can almost forget some of the sketchier plot points and one-dimensional characters.
Cold fusion is the key in this movie! Emma Russell has the formula, and Treiak wants it to bring Russia out of an energy crisis that he engineered. See, the Russians are freezing! There isn’t enough heating oil for everyone to actually stay warm in the winter, which has been leading to riots. Turns out, Tretiak caused this crisis by himself by STEALING THE OIL AND STORING IT IN HIS BASEMENT.
Yeah. Think about that for a moment.
I dunno much about the Russian oil industry in 1997, but I’m pretty sure someone would have noticed it had mysteriously gone missing. And how the eff do you store it all in one location without notice? The weird thing about this plot point is that it’s completely irrelevant. He’d still be a villain even if he was just taking advantage of his countrymen freezing to death in his rise to power.
It’s possible that I did, indeed, see The Saint in the misty bygone days of 1997. But I think where the problem lies is that the movie itself is wholly forgettable. I had two flashes during the movie where I thought I might possibly have seen it before- once during an exploding car and once during Elisabeth Shue’s “I need to strip to save you from hypothermia” scene, both of which are totally things that my seventh grade self would have taken notice of. But even as I sit here typing this, the movie’s growing fuzzy again, sinking back into the depths of my memory to presumably be forgotten once again.
That still doesn’t explain where I got the soundtrack, though. Dammit.
Filed under: Movies | Tagged: 1997 films, dead girlfriends, Elizabeth Shue, Emma Russell, freezing Russians, Ivan Tretiak, Milla Jovovich, MULTIPASS, Rade Serbedzija, Simon Templar, stealth movies, The Saint, The Saint Soundtrack, Val Kilmer, Valeri Nikolayev, Weird Al Yankovich |