Guilty Pleasures are, a lot of the time, a guilty pleasure because they are connected in some way to a memory. A person you watched it with, an experience while in the cinema, or maybe where you were at a certain time in your life. When The Saint came out I was in year 10, the Internet was just starting to get really big, and I kind of had a thing for guys with longish hair. I believe all of these have contributed to my love of this movie.
The Saint tells the story of Simon Templar (Val Kilmer), a go-to guy for high-profile heists, master of disguises and accents, and all-around Cool Guy. Wanting to do his One Last Job and Get Out of the Game, Simon takes a job to steal the formula for the fabled Cold Fusion from elusive Dr Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue). Of course, Simon succeeds in the job, but also falls for the sexy but shy scientist. Which will he choose?!
First off, can I quickly just point out how boring this poster is? But even so, it adds to that guilt. It’s so 80s, so generic, so doesn’t-really-tell-you-anything-about-the-movie. It fits perfectly. Now onto why this movies gives me such happiness. Even now, years later, I still think Val Kilmer is pretty cool. I didn’t mind his Batman, he ruled as Jim Morrisson, and he owned Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And so, I still think Simon Templar is a pretty cool character. The disguises still get me even though I’ve seen this movie a billion times. Nerdy, science guy with thick glasses and buck teeth? Check! Sultry Spanish guy with long, brown locks and ladykiller insticts? Check! Crew-cut, jovial, man’s man Aussie (with only slightly dodgy Aussie accent)? Check! His preparations are half the fun as well, as we watch Simon discovering his aliases, you wonder if this is what Kilmer as an actor does for his roles in real life. Plus, The Saint has a ton of awesome gadgets, including a mobile phone that has internet access. How unreal is that?!
I also really like Elisabeth Shue in this. She’s a pretty solid actress to begin with, but her character here could have easily been so lame. Shue makes Emma a shy, slightly naive, and intelligent person, and her development is believable, so that the character isn’t just a plot device but a sympathetic person whose emotions are easily understood.
The story itself isn’t too bad. Based mostly on the TV series from the ’60s starring Roger Moore, The Saint might have elements that we’ve all seen before — Russian bad guys, pretty lady doctor, a hero who survives anything — but still manages to be an entertaining movie with some decent laughs, action scenes and fights. Directed by Philip Noyce (who also directed Clear and Present Danger, The Bone Collecter, and Salt), it’s not going to get any awards for amazing cinematography or script, but it’s a solid and enjoyable movie that I really don’t have anything bad to say about. This is a rare thing nowadays.
Of course, a guilty pleasure would not be what it is without some cheese, and this movie has some fine pieces. Russian characters who speak English with accents instead of JUST RUSSIAN (a pet hate of mine) is a good one. But my favourite whiff of Cheddar has got to be when Emma is running towards her safe haven that is the American Embassy, with bad guy Ilya Tretiak in hot pursuit, she screams out “I’m an American”, and in slow-motion as the GI Joes at the embassy entrance open the gate wide for her to run in, they then slam it closed in said Russki’s face, with the stern threat to “Back away form the gate!”. It’s a rare talent to be able to grin and roll your eyes at the same time.
Being a teen watching The Saint, I was just so taken by this. I guess it’s kind of strange too, because teenage girls were probably not the target audience for the film, yet somehow it has stuck with me all these years. There are quite a few moments that crack me up (mostly to do with Simon’s alter-egos), but after all the repeated viewings over the years, I’ve come to really like the two main characters as well, which I guess brings me back again and again. Oh, and it has a pretty sweet soundtrack, too.
Guiltiest Moment: Hands down, the scene at the Shelley Memorial at the University. Emma, as is her daily habit, stands admiring the beautiful statue. Realising someone is in the room with her, she turns to see The Saint; Thomas Moore, reclining in his black leather pants, long dark hair slightly covering his face, shirt half-unbuttoned, sketching artfully in his notebook. Emma stumbles and stares, obviously flustered by this piece of sensitive hunk. The following scene in the restaurant is quite guilt-inducing as well, but that reveal is possibly my favourite moment of the movie.
Guiltiest Dialogue: “It’s so early…you guys want to go get some coffee or something?” I don’t know why I love this line. Probably has to do with the scene — The Saint now disguised as his own fake, gay, German assistant, conversing with the Tretiaks about a job. He just seems so unconcerned with everything, this scene cracks me up. Love the wardrobe here, too.
Guiltiest Performance: Connecting back to my guys-with-longish-hair fascination, I just love Ilya Tretiak (Valeri Nikolayev), son of main villain Ivan. As a 16 year old girl, the fact that he carried a cool cane (for no reason), rode around in a black Range Rover, and had his own entourage when Vinnie Chase was but a glimmer in Mark Wahlberg’s eye, Ilya to me is just one of those super-cool bad guys. He might be trying to stop our hero, but we don’t really mind that much, and he sure has style doing it.
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