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The Saint can't escape formulaic production

The Saint

Written by Jonathan Hensleigh

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Starring Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, and Rade Serbe

By Jonathan Litt
Staff Reporter

The Saint is the latest attempt by Paramount to bring a famous 1960s spy show on the big screen, in this case the 1962-68 British television series of the same name starring Roger Moore. (Their other recent attempt being last summer's hugely successful Mission: Impossible.)

Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue are mildly entertaining as the mysterious agent Simon Templar and Dr. Emma Russell, respectively, but their efforts are futile in the face of The Saint's corny plot and atrocious screenplay. Creating a successful movie franchise for this series is likely an impossible mission and will probably self-destruct after one film.

Templar is a high-tech thief with a penchant for disguise. In fact, Templar assumes over 11 different personas throughout the film, although most of them have the same quasi-European accent. The opening heist starts off somewhat promising as Templar sneaks his way into a rally in Moscow for Russian billionaire and presidential-hopeful Ivan Tretiak, and then proceeds to break into Tretiak's vault to steal some kind of microchip. However, you realize that it is going to be another one of those insult-your-intelligence flicks when Templar escapes the clutches of the bad guys by jumping off the roof of a 20-story building, landing unharmed on the bed of a convenient truck.

Tretiak, impressed with this mysterious thief's ingenuity, proceeds to contact him through secret messages on the Internet in an extended World Wide Web browsing sequence complete with the gratuitous Apple Powerbook. (Deja vu, anyone?) We learn that Templar is eager to take up one last job and retire from his business as soon as his bank account balance reaches $50 million. Just a few million short of 50, he then cuts a deal with Tretiak to pull off a job for $3 million.

The job, of course, is to steal the secretly discovered formula for cold fusion from a beautiful and young female scientist. Dr. Emma Russell is smart enough to discover the secret to cold fusion but apparently not smart enough to remember the equations off the top of her head, so she is forced to carry the equations around on small slips of paper stuffed into her bra. This proves convenient for Templar, although I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out how he gets his hands on them, so to speak.

The fun begins here, as Templar and Dr. Russell both fall prey to the sinister plans of Tretiak. In a game of cat and mouse, they are chased through the streets, tunnels, rivers, and just about every other part of Moscow. The action culminates in Tretiak's attempt to become the president of Russia over the first-ever demo of a cold fusion device (which looked a lot like a spotlight pointing into the air).

An original ending involved the death of Dr. Russell, but test audiences gave it a thumbs down so a happy ending was reshot earlier this year.

The Saint might please a few die-hard Val Kilmer fans, but overall it is an entirely uninspired piece of filmmaking. With movies like this being the norm for Hollywood these days, it's no wonder that the major studios grabbed only five of the 24 Academy Awards last week. As always, should the movie fail to achieve success, the studio will disavow any knowledge of its existence.