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As always, Cranky makes no comparison with source material, in this case the series of novels by Leslie Charteris, a movie series starring George Sanders which predates Cranky by decades, and the television series which starred Roger Moore. All that this version of The Saint has in common with the television show is the seven note theme by Edwin Astley and a thin plot designed to show off how clever this Saint guy is.
Cranky will also share a trade secret. Reviewers talk to each other. Two reviewers I know (who saw The Saint in a private screening room) hated this preposterous story of a high tech thief, his love for a nuclear scientist who dresses like a Catholic schoolgirl, and the Russian megalomaniac who would doom their love. Cranky would probably have hated The Saint as well, had he watched the movie in a private screening room. As it was, Cranky had a splitting headache and killer leg pain when he sat down in a packed preview house for his invited, advance screening. These advance shows are usually filled with people-who-know-people and their friends, and reviewers and their guests. In this particular case Cranky immediately knew who the reviewers were, as they got up and left before Roger Moore made his cameo.
The crowd that stayed applauded. For as preposterous as it is, The Saint is a very enjoyable two hours in the dark, made more so by star Val Kilmer's versatility with accents -- we should have seen it coming when the highlight of last year's Island of Dr. Moreau was his Brando riff. The character's makeup ability, as in false mustaches and toupees and theatrical makeup, is played for laughs, not because that ability is particularly good but because no one in authority, good or bad, can see through it. Add to this a dexterity with computers and high tech equipment, and you have Bond in a wig.
Simon Templar's (Kilmer) origin story, never revealed by Charteris, is the baggage that this story carries. Why Templar chose that name and why he names his disguises after Catholic saints is not germane to the story at hand, and eats up screen time that makes the final ending drag.
What is germane is that Templar is a high tech thief who meticulously plans out every aspect of his crime. He lives everywhere and has an underground of support network people who pop up at the most convenient times in every major city. He sells himself to the highest bidder and changes identities and nationalities more quickly than you or I change our underwear. In the opening day's theft alone, he goes from New Zealander to Russian to Spaniard and manages to bed a Russian beauty as a bonus.
Employer number two in this flick is the Russian energy merchant Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija), who hires Templar to steal a formula for cold fusion from the American scientist Dr. Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue). The formula, which could turn saltwater into an everlasting fuel, has great value in a country where the freezing residents of urban cities burn pieces of their buildings to keep warm. It is the key to political popularity and could make Tretiak the Emperor of a new Russia. Sole possession could also bring domination of the world's energy markets, and even novice screenwriters know what that leads to.
The catch is that Templar falls for Russell, and everything else brings you back to the second paragraph. The preposterousness of it all is that the aforementioned network of supporting characters pop in, make deals, and disappear with no rhyme or reason. We see Templar break into an apartment without wearing gloves, and then proceed to touch everything. Topping it all off are enough plot timing holes in the second half of the flick that Cranky should have keeled over in pain, but he was having too much fun. Which is what movies are all about.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Saint, he would have paid . . .
Oh yes, about that Moore cameo. Don't go looking for Roger, you won't see him. If you leave before you're sure that he's been there, then you'll miss him. Which is kind of what "The Saint" is supposed to do every time he pulls a job.
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