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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Portuguese, Croatian
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary

The Saint

Paramount/Paramount . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

First conceived in 1927 by author Leslie Charteris, the gentleman-criminal and master thief Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint, has had many incarnations; being the subject of many novels, movies and even a TV series (starring none other than Roger Moore). In 1997 Paramount, under the direction of Aussie Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, Dead Calm), embarked on yet another incarnation, this time starring Val Kilmer.

Haunted by a boyhood tragedy, The Saint is a lonely, faceless figure who seeks refuge in an anonymous world of espionage and international crime. Utilising elaborate disguises and state-of-the-art gadgets, he makes his living breaking into heavily secured installations at the behest of questionable characters, to steal items of interest for large sums of cash. His latest assignment, to pilfer a cold-fusion formula from a beautiful Oxford scientist, Dr Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), hits a snag when he unwittingly falls for his pretty young victim as he charms the formula out of her bra (where it is stashed, along with several other things presumably).

However, a change of heart is not something he can negotiate with his employers – a bunch of violent Russian mobsters planning a Kremlin coup. And so with much regret, to protect his new sweetheart he hands the formula on, pockets his sizable fee, and returns to his lonely existence. The problem, however, is that Ms Russell's formula is incomplete and soon the Russians are back on her trail. There’s no choice but for The Saint to turn his powers to good instead of evil, and to rediscover himself in the process...

With one a gentleman-thief and one a gentleman-spy, it’s hard not to make comparisons between The Saint and the Bond franchise. Ignoring motivation, there really are few differences between the characters of Simon Templar and 007, and The Saint’s newest incarnation feels a lot like a Bond film with a little melancholy thrown in for good measure. Like Bond, the action is a little half-hearted (compared to the latest Arnie/Willis/whoever smash-fest) but still plays well, representing a means to an end rather than an end in itself. And while Val Kilmer's rather introverted Templar is quite close to his turn as Bruce Wayne, he’s at his comic best when donning one of his many disguises. It’s then that the film generates a few good laughs - much more hearty than the quips and innuendo in your average Bond.

Shue, perky and as cute as a button, certainly doesn’t make for a believable Oxford professor. But her portrayal of Dr Russell, a naïve dreamer and romantic who is physically fragile and displays little experience in the ways of men, certainly makes for a great Bond-girl (infinitely more believable than Denise Richards’ Dr. Christmas Jones – yak). Let’s face it, any girl whose ‘research papers’ turn out to be post-it notes stuffed into her underwear is more Bond than Bond itself! Throughout, Shue remains adorable yet believable - her character well realised within the strict confines of the plot.

And thus the humour of Kilmer and the inherent likability of Shue save The Saint from genre anonymity. There are a couple of real groaner moments - for example Emma's heart condition is a too-obvious metaphor for other subplots - but all in all it's a pleasing romp with a little action, a little humour and a little romance all rolled into the mix. Yes suspension of belief is mandatory, the genre demands it, but this little dose of escapism certainly makes for an enjoyable two hours.

  Video
Contract

Paramount’s anamorphic transfer of The Saint is presented at the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is very nice indeed. The image is sharp and there is a satisfying amount of detail to be found in the wonderful winter Moscow locations, including Red Square and The Kremlin. Black level is equally impressive, and shadow detail is great. Although colour is muted in most scenes – predominantly blues reflecting the cold loneliness of The Saint’s existence (sob) - colour saturation is perfect and flesh tones are rendered faithfully.

Taken from a nice clean print, the image displays only one or two specks of film grain, and nothing in the way of MPEG artefacts. The only problem I can mention is a few instances of aliasing and moirè (some distracting I’ll admit) that crop up every now and again. Presented on a dual-layer disc, the layer change is a little clunky but is reasonably well positioned between scenes. All in all a great job by Paramount.

  Audio
Contract

In terms of audio, The Saint reflects its fairly recent action pedigree with a kick-arse Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that nicely utilises all five and a half channels. Whilst dialogue remains clear and distinct from the centre channel, the front and rear channels pump with The Saint’s adrenalin-packed score. Using an eclectic mix of your standard action-dramatic and thumping dance tracks, the score is mixed nicely between the front and rear speakers to create an almost continually enveloping sound stage. Often the score is joined by an impressive level of ambient sound, mainly surging crowds and sounds from the streets of Moscow.

In terms of effects, The Saint also impresses. This is no The Matrix, but there are still directional effects aplenty with gunshots, shouting guards, barking dogs and the like all emanating from various channels as the action heats up. The subwoofer is given a continuous, yet subtle, workout throughout, adding body to the score and other effects such as gunshots. As you might expect, there are one or two instances where the subwoofer is allowed to shine, but you’ll get no spoilers from me!

All in all in terms of audio The Saint lives up to its genre, providing the kind of audio experience that you bought all that expensive equipment to hear.

  Extras
Contract

In terms of extras this is by no means a Collector’s Edition, but it should go some way to satisfy you fans out there. What the disc lacks in quantity of extras it makes up for in quality - the centrepiece being a fast-paced and comprehensive commentary from director Phillip Noyce. Noyce talks continuously and enthusiastically about the film, why he got involved in the project, the history of Leslie Charteris’ character, the casting of Val Kilmer and their collaboration in bringing The Saint to the screen. Although at times Noyce seems to be reading from carefully prepared notes, this is a great commentary track and well worth taking the time to hear. Also included on the disc is the obligatory yet worthless theatrical trailer that is anamorphic and presented at a ratio of 1.85:1. In terms of menus the disc is uninspiring yet functional, sporting anamorphic menus that are static and silent.

  Overall  
Contract

Featuring good performances from Kilmer and Shue, The Saint is a film that entertains as both an action adventure and romantic-comedy. Never taking itself too seriously it provides some good laughs, even if some of these weren't intended by the writers. Whilst not brimming with extras, the commentary by Phillip Noyce is one of the better I've heard, and should more than satisfy fans. Highly recommended.


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      And I quote...
    "A couple of real groaner moments, but a great, ...er... Bond film nonetheless."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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