The latest adaptation of the Saint is a direct-to-digital film originally shot as a pilot for a TV series back in 2013. It was released with the recent death of 1960s star Sir Roger Moore, who appears in it.
The production has some good touches. It is certainly not the 1996 Saint film. Saint (2017) felt like the people who had made it had watched Saint films and TV shows and read Saint books, which isn’t something I could have said about the 1996 film or the telefilm
In the 2017 film, the Saint, the Robin Hood of crime, is called by a wealthy thief. The wealthy thief is involved in a scam to electronically move billions of dollars in humanitarian aid money belonging a third world country into an offshore account. After he grows a conscience and doesn’t follow through, his daughter is kidnapped. The Saint has to rescue the girl and make sure the aid money gets to its intended recipient.
This film has got a lot of nice touches that make it feel a little bit more like the Saint. It features two former “Saint actors,” Moore and Ian Ogilvy, who played the Saint in the late 1970s. The film also features Patricia Holm, a character from the novels, and gives the Saint a dopey sidekick who calls him “boss.” That’s vintage Saint of both literature and film right there.
Adam Rayner brings far more charm and charisma to the role than more recent portrayals. He’s not on the level of George Sanders in the 1940s or Moore in the 1960s, but there’s an infectious swashbuckling fun to the way Rayner plays the character and he’s a joy to watch.
Also unlike the 1996 film, the 2017 film gets the idea that the Robin Hood of Modern crime should, you know, be giving to the poor if he robs some crooks. The movie sets the Saint in the same vein as many of the pre-World War II books did.
So where does the telefilm film go wrong?
There are three big problems as I see it. First, there’s too much technobabble. I get that this is the twenty-first century and everything is computerized, but I’ve seen Star Trek episodes with less implausible babbling to support whatever scene is coming up next.
Second is the way Patricia Holm was written. In an updated story like this, it’d be smart to make Patricia Holm balance the Saint in skills, personality, with confidence in herself and who she is that would exceed what was written in novels in the 1920s-1940s.
What they decided to do is to make Patricia into the Maryest of Mary Sues. Yes, the 21st Century Patricia Holm is a computer genius and a self-defense expert who can handle everything herself. In a flashback, she is handcuffed to a jeep in the middle of the dessert. She manages to kill all three of the men holding her while still handcuffed.
Further, she works in as many opportunities to belittle our hero as possible because…Mary Sue. She even tells the Saint that she’s the brains of the operation and he’s just the muscle. Really?
The other big problem can summed up in a simple paragraph:
The Saint is great. Batman is great. Val Kilmer played Batman and he also played the Saint. However, the Saint is not Batman.
We learn at the start of the story that Simon’s family is tied to the Knights Templar (which is a very good idea), but we also learn the Saint was the son of a wealthy family, both of his parents were murdered before his eyes, someone who mentored him was evil, and he has a gift for disappearing when people turn their head.
And there are a few other things that make this movie reminiscent of Batman Begins. The pilot also hinted that an evil generic brotherhood would be Bat-Saint’s chief opponent rather than the traditional Saint approach of taking on whatever new and interesting villainy offers itself up to be defeated each week.
Finally, the ending feels tacked on and awkward, particularly a line that draws attention to the fact the actor who played Agent Fernak wasn’t available for this scene.
Some minor characters are so horrifically performed, it takes you out of the story, including in that final scene.
Overall, this isn’t a horrible film, but it could have been better and I felt Adam Rayner’s Saint really deserved a better film. Still, as it is, it manages to get enough right about the Saint to make this an enjoyable bit of action schlock. However, its attempts to update the Saint more often than not go awry and this holds it back.
Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0