Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The World Needs a Saint

Back in 2013, a bunch of folks tried to revive The Saint for television, but the pilot didn't sell. Roger Moore appears in a cameo at the end, but he's not who you think. Whether or not Sir Roger's recent death sparked them to action or not is something I'll let the crew answer, but the pilot has now been released as a 90-minute TV movie (streamed on-line), and it's good stuff.

I watched on YouTube for $4.99. iTunes has it, and I believe other places like Vudu, so look around. Maybe Amazon will get it.

We have Adam Rayner as Simon Templar in a very disciplined performance that totally brings the character to life. The only thing missing is Rayner writing song lyrics and smoking too many cigarettes and using silly phrases likes like "as the nun said to the cow" and other wonderful lines that Leslie Charteris put into Templar's mouth (we do get one "bob's your uncle" which is almost the same thing). Rayner and Ian Ogilvy (as the heavy) are the best part, especially Ogilvy, who scene-chews his way through the show and is a delight to watch because he once filled Rayner's shoes.

The plot concerns the search for a missing two-billion dollar charity fund earmarked for Nigeria, a kidnapped girl, and lots and lots of computer hacking. And here is where we get to the first problem with The Saint 2017. Computer hacking has become one of the biggest tropes in action shows, film or television, to the point where it's eye-rolling ridiculous. Every obstacle can be solved by a couple of keystrokes from somebody in a van, who is usually a nerd saying nerd things and making nerd jokes, or a sexy girl saying nerd things (as in this case) but without the jokes--Eliza Dushku's Patricia Holm is oh-so-serious, darling. I understand that in the age of the microchip and algorithm we don't have much of a choice but to rely on computers for many things, but it's such a poor narrative device that it's now an example of lazy writing.

But back to the show. It's a solid fast-paced caper that reminded me of Leverage, except with less people. Leverage, of course, owes a lot to The Saint. And that's probably one of the reasons the show never sold.

For all of its wit and charm and clever dialogue and great locations and a solid attempt at a low-budget Bond-like show, The Saint 2017 doesn't offer much that's new or hasn't been seen 100 times already. There are a few other problems, too. Some of the cast speaks as if they've just learned English, and their acting is a bit wooden as a result. Eliza Dushku tries to come off as a sexy sophisticated vamp, but instead engages in unintentional parody of same. She looks the part, it's nice to see Patricia Holm finally portrayed properly (basically what she should have been from the beginning, but I'm not entirely sure Charteris really knew quite what to do with her), but Dushku is still the cheerleader from Bring It On and while she's aged nicely, her acting skills have not.

But The Saint 2017 finally gets the Saint right. There are a ton of literary references that I loved, including a mention of Inspector Teal and a prominent role for John Henry Fernack, although Mr. Fernack has now become an FBI agent, which is fine. Simon has a bumbling helper, like Hoppy Uniatz in the books, but for some reason they named him Doyle. No matter. It's the thought that counts, and a lot of thought was put into this show and it's a shame they didn't have better luck with selling the program. It is, however, now here for us to enjoy, and enjoy it you will.

I understand there is currently another attempt to get The Saint back on television or cinema, and that's terrific news. We eagerly await more.

The world really needs a Saint.

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