As that dude off Bridgerton gets cast as Simon Templar..we look back at the VAL KILMER effort from 1997..
I have the fondest memories of THE SAINT. Yes, it’s flawed. There is a meandering series of bad poems. Some very odd, awkward attempts at hard boiled references to drugs and Russian Mafia politics.
And a most gratuitous and bizarre scene of self mutilation by the hero. It’s not James Bond, Batman or Mission:Impossible but some strange medley mix of pastiche pulp.
The movie underperformed. But that is due more to a lack of name recognition in the brand than any innate flaw in the formula itself. It had been years since Roger Moore and George Sanders made the role a ‘thing’ on film and television.
Two sort of reboot attempts had been and gone without much legacy to them. So there simply was not much franchise anticipation for this when it arrived in cinemas. It felt like Val Kilmer’s silver medal, having turned his back on Batman.
And YET. I did say I love the film. Here’s why:
- Sentimental reasons. I was 17. Life was good! Cool Britannia!
- Beautiful shots of Russia, London and Oxford (filmed at my beloved alma mater, New College, same as Tomorrow Never Dies in the same year).
- It is FUNNY! One scene has a ‘Bruno’ years before Sacha Baron Cohen.
- Does not dabble in sci-fi /supernatural as such but manages to hint at those, visually and atmospherically without undermining the whole. Same way the Nolan Batman films would approach things (‘is Ras Al Guhl not immortal?’ arguably has a proto version here in the cold fusion revelations and religious allusions).
- This is PEAK Val Kilmer. Balletic, elegant, compelling, complex, versatile, athletic, sleek, aristocratic, poetic. THAT is a ‘MOVIE STAR’.
- Did he squander that charm? Maybe.
- But he remains among the definitive action heroes of all time, such that military personnel still praise his choreography as convincing. Compared to the CGI wallies we have today? This guy was a class of his own.
- Kinetic editing and location hopping narrative which arguably foreshadows the Jason Bourne travelogue montages a few years later?
- Still relevant today: Russia on the brink; enviro v commerce v science.
- Elisabeth Shue is adorable here (coat/boots!) as is Emily Mortimer.
- PERFECT SCORE AND SOUNDTRACK!!! GREAT TRAILER!!
- Alun Armstrong is credible as a frustrated cop on our hero’s case. Happy 75th, btw! GREAT actor. England’s Tommy Lee Jones!
- Contrary to belief? This film IS a fairly solid tribute to the Charteris source material: rogue, thief, gentleman, even a nod to South Africa!
- Director Phillip Noyce at his action adventure best. Such a shame he did not helm another Jack Ryan picture or land a James Bond gig! And yes, I’d have LOVED to see sequels to 1997’s THE SAINT.
- Trivia: this movie arguably was among the first to use ‘viral’ marketing, with it’s ‘WHO IS THE SAINT?’ campaign and VOLVO tie in via ultra cool poster. Ahead of its time and out of its time, much like the titular hero.
PS: The baddie looks like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. 😉