Alun Armstrong

The Saint (1997, Phillip Noyce)

The Saint is a delightful mess of a film. Director Noyce toggles between doing a Bond knock-off while a romantic adventure picture. Val Kilmer’s international, high-tech cat burglar falls for one of his marks, Elisabeth Shue’s genius scientist. Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick’s script, even when it puts Shue in distress, never actually treats her like a damsel. She’s in her own movie, one where she’s this genius scientist and she falls for the international, high-tech cat burglar who rips off her science thing.

It’s not just any science thing, The Saint is from the late nineties, so it’s cold fusion. So Shue gets to play this oddball scientist, full of eccentric behavior, only somewhat contained. Shue’s so excited by her adventure in the film–she’s so full of energy during the extended chase sequence in the second act, it’s almost like Kilmer has to hold her back. He gets to do makeup and voices, but he doesn’t have the thrill for it. She does. He’s got the thrill for her. It’s just lovely. I mean, it’s the thing Noyce never lets get screwed up–the romance. And the comedy, though the comedy is an afterthought for too much of the film. It probably would’ve been better to embrace it a lot earlier but there’s all the Bond knocking off to do.

And it’s fine international chase and action intrigue. It’s a fine Bond knock-off. Terry Rawlings’s editing could be better, but Phil Meheux’s photography is always solid, sometimes something more. The film’s enamored with Shue. Kilmer can easily handle this international thief thing. It’s not a tough part. The tough stuff is the accents and stage makeup and he excels at it. But the weight of the film’s conceit falls on Shue. She has to be a genius, she has to be a practical slapstick romantic interest, she has to be the damsel in distress. And her performance embraces the first two and rejects the third. Noyce and Kilmer just have to catch up with her. It’s gleeful.

Graeme Revell’s music is sometimes really good, sometimes really not. Again, he never screws it up for the romance.

Awesome supporting turns from villains Rade Serbedzija and Valeriy Nikolaev. Serbedzija and Kilmer only get a couple scenes together but they’re fantastic ones. They both want to chew on the scenery but they’re not willing to step on the other’s toes. And Nikolaev, as Serbedzija’s son and chief thug, doesn’t get many lines, he just gets to be mean. He’s excellent at it.

I’ve been putting off watching The Saint again for at least a decade. I can’t get that time loving it back. It’s a really special film. It’s not a success because it’s way too confused as a production, but Noyce sees what Shue and Kilmer are doing and he throws in with them, concept be damned.

The Saint’s lovely. And Shue is amazing. Kilmer’s got some really outstanding moments and he’s real strong doing this intentionally ill-defined lead, but Shue is better. It’s a truly singular performance.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Phillip Noyce; screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick, based on a story by Hensleigh and a character created by Leslie Charteris; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Joseph C. Nemec III; produced by David Brown, Robert Evans, William J. MacDonald and Mace Neufeld; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Val Kilmer (Simon Templar), Elisabeth Shue (Dr. Emma Russell), Rade Serbedzija (Ivan Tretiak), Valeriy Nikolaev (Ilya Tretiak), Michael Byrne (Vereshagi), Henry Goodman (Dr. Lev Botvin), Evgeniy Lazarev (President Karpov), Alun Armstrong (Inspector Teal), Charlotte Cornwell (Inspector Rabineau), Lev Prygunov (General Sklarov) and Irina Apeksimova (Frankie).


Krull (1983, Peter Yates)

From the director of Breaking Away and one of the many fine writers of the Adam West “Batman” TV show….

Krull is just as unwatchable now as it was the last time I tried to watch it, some eleven years ago.

As a kid—assuming kids are the best audience for the film—Krull never registered as something I might want to watch. Finding anything to say about it is difficult. It’s an object lesson, I suppose, in how not to direct for Panavision. Yates is about as incapable of directing an action sequence as one would imagine Woody Allen would be directing one. The opening alone is painful.

It’s unclear what successful fantasy film the makers were trying to capitalize on—it’s not a Star Wars knockoff, for example. Wait… it’s knights with laser-swords versus some kind of Stormtrooper stand-ins. But these Stormtroopers don’t have a Death Star, they have a big rock. Krull might have actually kicked off the eighties fantasy genre—I fairly sure that genre produced anything of any value. At least not the straight, non-comedy influenced genre pictures.

Also amusing is James Horner’s score, which is entirely—well, maybe not entirely, but heavily influenced by his Star Trek II and III scores. Actually, Star Trek III came out the following year so maybe Horner just reused the Krull bits in it.

Oddly, given the film’s incompetence, the outer space effects are solid.

Krull’s a punchline masquerading as a two-hour fantasy epic.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Yates; written by Stanford Sherman; director of photography, Peter Suschitzky; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by James Horner; production designer, Stephen B. Grimes; produced by Ron Silverman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ken Marshall (Colwyn), Lysette Anthony (Lyssa), Freddie Jones (Ynyr), Francesca Annis (Widow of the Web), Alun Armstrong (Torquil), David Battley (Ergo), Bernard Bresslaw (Cyclops), Liam Neeson (Kegan) and Robbie Coltrane (Rhun).


Split Second (1992, Tony Maylam)

Rutger Hauer plays a rogue cop who needs big guns, smokes cigars, and has his Zippo lighter fixed for a three-inch flame. Amusingly, the character being some kind of poster child for overcompensation isn’t recognized, neither by Hauer or by the filmmakers. Hauer’s performance is something extraordinary. I mean, sure, the lines are awful, but Hauer’s gives an atrocious performance even when he isn’t talking. He can’t even manage to grimace convincingly.

What’s interesting about Split Second is how it got funding. It didn’t get much–it shot on location in London (future London has a raised sea level thanks to global warming, but it only comes up in the deceivingly competent opening credits and the occasional partially flooded streets), but almost everything is interiors. There’s also, with the exception of the British cast, no British flavor to the setting. Hauer isn’t supposed to be British, which begs the question of why he’s there (little of this future setting is explained–apparently, the U.S., through the U.N., runs the planet). Poor Pete Postlethwaite has a small, bad role. He’s not bad, but the character’s idiotic. Alun Armstrong’s better than the material–though his is a little less embarrassing than Postlethwaite’s–but he’s in bad stuff all the time (maybe not this bad), so he’s not as surprising to see. As Hauer’s sidekick, Alastair Duncan is only slightly better than Hauer.

Movies this bad must still be made, but I don’t think it’s with the same legitimacy. I mean, until I started watching it, I had no idea how bad Split Second was going to turn out (the hack of a writer has gone on to other things, after all). It’s a pre-direct to video movie, which does mean something. I’m just not sure whatever it means has anything to do with the possible quality of a film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Maylam; written by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Clive Tickner; edited by Dan Rae; music by Francis Haines and Stephen W. Parsons; production designer, Chris Edwards; produced by Laura Gregory; released by Interstar.

Starring Rutger Hauer (Harley Stone), Kim Cattrall (Michelle), Alastair Duncan (Dick Durkin), Michael J. Pollard (The Rat Catcher), Alun Armstrong (Thrasher), Pete Postlethwaite (Paulsen), Ian Dury (Jay Jay), Roberta Eaton (Robin), Tony Steedman (O’Donnell) and Steven Hartley (Foster).


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