The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - THERE ARE NO SAINTS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - THERE ARE NO SAINTS

There Are No Saints review
A hitman enlists the aid of a bartender to find those responsible for his son's abduction.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alfonso Pineda Ulloa

Starring: Jose Maria Yazpik, Ron Perlman, Tim Roth, Shannyn Sossamon, Paz Vega, Neal McDonough, Tommy Flanagan, Kiedrich Sellati

There Are No Saints poster

At one point in There Are No Saints, a villain played by Ron Perlman repeats the old adage that "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." It would seem to be a sentiment Paul Schrader, who surprisingly penned the screenplay for this otherwise unremarkable revenge thriller, agrees with. Schrader would be the first to admit that he's stolen from some of his favourite filmmakers throughout his career, but he's also not above stealing from himself. His script for There Are No Saints is almost a copy and paste reworking of his 1979 classic Hardcore, but with George C. Scott's uptight MidWest father swapped out for a SouthWest cartel enforcer.

There Are No Saints review

The warning signs that Schrader may not be bringing his A-game to this project arrive as early as the opening scene. A crudely written radio show lazily fills in the backstory of our stone-faced anti-hero, "The Jesuit" (José María Yazpik). Having spent the past four years in prison, he's now been released after an official confessed to lying in order to see him incarcerated. After a quick meeting with his improbable cockney lawyer (Tim Roth), who warns him to leave town before his enemies catch up with him, The Jesuit visits his ex-wife (Paz Vega) and demands to see his son, Julio (Kiedrich Sellati), before he skips town. Julio hints that his mom's new boyfriend, property tycoon Vincent (Neal McDonough), may be a wrong 'un, leading The Jesuit to decide to stick around with disastrous consequences for his wife, who is murdered, and his boy, who is abducted. Having vowed to quit "the life," The Jesuit uses his specific skills to track down the man responsible for his boy's kidnapping.

There Are No Saints review

It's difficult to tell whether director Alfonso Pineda Ulloa has botched Schrader's script or the legendary screenwriter just knocked it out over a weekend to settle a few bills. I'm inclined towards the latter. While rehashing his familiar characters and themes (religious guilt, a "whore" figure aiding the solemn male protagonist, a descent through a hellish underworld), Schrader struggles to fit his worldview into the sort of thriller Liam Neeson now makes a living headlining. It's all a big mess, and in its worst moments it feels like it was written by a film student who just discovered '90s era Lynch and Tarantino. The SouthWest setting and collection of oddball characters come off as second rate Barry Gifford while the cringey speeches are straight out of one of those awful Tarantino knockoffs that filled the shelves of video stores back in the day.

The movie doesn't seem to know what to make of its protagonist. Had Schrader directed this, The Jesuit would no doubt be a lot more nuanced than he's portrayed here. We get flashbacks that show he's by no means a good man, yet the film wants us to feel empathy for him rather than simply allowing us to root for someone we don’t like to take down someone even worse. Schrader pulled this off brilliantly in the past with Hardcore and Taxi Driver, which both gave us unlikable anti-heroes yet managed to get us on their side when they came up against the very definition of unambiguous evil. Schrader once again puts children in the hands of sexual exploiters in order to get us on his surly protagonist's side, but the villains are so lazily drawn that we can't take any of it seriously.

There Are No Saints review

Most of the cast don’t seem to be taking this seriously either, but they are at least having more fun than the audience. Shannyn Sossamon is a ball of fire in the Season Hubley role of a sassy bartender recruited by The Jesuit, while McDonough is clearly having a blast imitating Larry Hagman's JR Ewing. Scottish actor Tommy Flanagan delivers one of the worst Irish accents I've ever heard as an arms dealer named "Jet Rink." Beyond the occasional over-the-top but fun performance, there's little to recommend There Are No Saints, but if it helps finance Schrader's next directorial outing it will have been worth something.

There Are No Saints
 is in US cinemas and VOD from May 27th and UK/ROI VOD from May 30th.

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