A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Saint is a 1997 action movie starring Val Kilmer as a thieving man of mystery who meets his match in a brilliant scientist played by Elisabeth Shue. There is some drug use -- Russian mafiosi snort cocaine. There are plenty of gunfights and explosions, and a little girl falls to her death from a railing inside an orphanage. A receptionist is shot and killed in cold blood. A priest is verbally abusive to a young boy when he refuses to go by the name foisted upon him by the orphanage; he is shown in silhouette and heard getting spanked by the priest. One use of "f--k." The Saint makes an escape by dressing like a Russian alcoholic homeless man and passes a bottle of vodka to an actual Russian alcoholic homeless man, who immediately drinks from it.
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What's the story?
Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) -- who is not really named Simon Templar -- is THE SAINT, a man of countless disguises whose modus operandi is to use a different saint's name in each new identity. He is also a thief who never fails to elude authorities all over the globe. But when he is asked by an ambitious former-Communist-turned-energy-industry-billionaire named Ivan Treitak (Rade Serbedzija) to steal the secret plans explaining how to create cold fusion as an energy source in the midst of an energy crisis Treitak himself created, he more than meets his match when he makes the acquaintance of one Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), the brilliant scientist who developed the cold-fusion formula. Through the magic of disguises ranging from a nerdy physicist to a Byronesque artiste, Templar manages to win the confidence of Russell, steals the cold-fusion documents, but also finds himself falling for her at the same time. Russell manages to track Templar to Moscow, where they both must escape the clutches of both the Russian government and Treitak and his Russian mob goons, prevent another Russian revolution instigated by Treitak, and prove to the Russian people that Treitak is both a fraud and a traitor. Templar must also find it in his heart to give in to his affection for Russell.
Is it any good?
It's not the worst '90s action movie but it certainly isn't the best, either. It must have been strange and a bit difficult to try to make an action movie rooted in foreign intrigue in the years between the fall of Communism and 9/11. Without any clear-cut enemies, the best this adaptation of The Saint could come up with in terms of antagonists is a former Soviet Communist-turned-billionaire-energy-industrialist trying to overthrow the Russian government with the assistance of the Russian mob. Fair enough, but compared to, say, the gestapo or the KGB or today's "enemies of the state," a tale of disguises and unrelenting authority eluding in this context falls short. While there's still plenty at stake, there's just not as much at stake as saving the world from nuclear destruction or world domination by the bad guys.
Also, there's the issue of Val Kilmer, who plays the Saint. While he's not terrible, he's not exactly giving each new identity some kind of amazing performance either. While the identity of the "tortured artist" is funny in the context of Kilmer's performance as Jim Morrison in The Doors, in the context of the story itself, it feels completely beyond ludicrous that someone who is supposed to be as brilliant as Elisabeth Shue's character could possibly fall for such a self-parody. And there isn't even much chemistry between Kilmer and Shue. Overall, more likely to interest nostalgic parents than current teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies adapted from previous incarnations in different media. The Saint started out as a radio serial and was later a 1960s television program starring Roger Moore, who later played James Bond. What would be the challenges in presenting a modern-day version of a character and story with such a long history?
How is violence conveyed in this movie? Does it seem important to the story, or is does it feel shoehorned in to add flair to the action?
How does this movie compare to other action movies you've seen?
- In theaters: April 4, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2013
- Cast: Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, Rade Serbedzija
- Director: Phillip Noyce
- Studio: Paramount Catalog
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Action violence, brief strong language, some sensuality and drug content.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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