Directed by Alfonso Pineda Ulloa.
Starring José María Yazpik, Tommy Flanagan, Ron Perlman, Karla Souza, Shannyn Sossamon, Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Neal McDonough, Brian Cox, and Keidrich Sellati.
A man nicknamed “Jesuit,” is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. When his wife is murdered, and his son kidnapped and taken to Mexico, he devises an elaborate and dangerous plan to save his son and avenge the murder.
What if Paul Schrader did it? Taken? That sums up No Saints, a generic action player who only has a silver lining is sitting and seeing how dark he will take the story. There’s nothing wrong with being crooked and dirty; the world is chaotic, and Schrader – in writing here – usually manages to plunge into that chasm of moral bankruptcy. However, it’s an overly gratuitous surprise value for a script that refuses to interrogate its characters, including the lead, which is a significant misstep considering he may or may not be a murderer (he was acquitted of the death penalty because an officer admitted to tampering with evidence, but flashbacks shows that he is, well, not a saint).
Neto (José María Yazpik, a solid and fearsome physical performance who is absent in the line delivery department) is ripped. It’s been five years since he’s seen his son Julio (Keidrich Sellati), but everyone in Texas town has an ax to grind. The cops welcome him home in a vicious ambush, there’s a cartel riddled with unacceptable Mexican stereotypes, his wife’s (Paz Vega) new boyfriend (Neal McDonough) is a career criminal, and his lawyer (Tim Roth) prefers not to. again threatened with extinction. First, No Saints feels like it’s going to be another character study written by gloomy Paul Schrader (it should be mentioned that Alfonso Pineda Ulloa, who mostly has history on television, directs), but quickly turns into a kidnapped kid/hunts down whoever leads the film.
Worse, it’s kind of stupid, where our protagonist dies for rights multiple times, only for the minions to be surprised by the backhand dropping the gun out of their hands. The action is mainly choppy and only involved because of how primitive and sadistic it is. There are some purportedly intense and clever torture sequences in the punishments that cringe, but there’s never a feeling that this story is going to be interesting. Paul Schrader has stated that his aim is exploitation cinema, but what is here is too serious without a hint of fun. Again, it pushes the limits for the sake of it. And believe me, this movie will make people sick and many turn it off for the last 20 minutes. People who make it to the end are hopeless, and I say that as someone who keeps hitting the drums for a bleak ending. This? It was pointless and downright cruel.
There are also tons of random support characters who tell you they are bad people by repeatedly making racist comments. That’s also great considering the harsh side of the film, but one scene has a character making three different racist comments in 30 seconds. It almost looks funny, not laughing at the racist jokes, of course, but the incompetence of the script that characterizes the villain. It doesn’t matter if they’re white or Mexican (although whenever they’re Mexican, you can be sure they dress and talk like the walking stereotype).
Remember, No Saints mainly from Paul Schrader’s mind, so it’s no surprise that it’s also super horny. Not only did we visit the strip club about three times (which I don’t mind), one of the dancers (Shannyn Sossamon) accompanies Neto exchanging information for cash, in addition to cross-border access. This turns into a romantic subplot that is impossible to buy. It also just gives Alfonso Pineda Ulloa another female character to bleed.
There are times when some of the action clicks (fights in the car), but it’s an ominous film that’s too evil to be considered an entertaining schlock, leaves checking for its protagonist, and it’s derivative. No Saints entered production nearly ten years ago and has been sitting on the shelves for roughly eight years. And you know, there’s no saint because the movie doesn’t stay on the shelves forever. This is a blot on Paul Schrader’s most impressive recent work. At least Neto has a cool jacket? I got some positive things here. Apparently, the saints and positives are in short supply.
Myth Rank Flashing – Movies: / Movies:
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics’ Choice Association. He is also the Editor of the Flashing Myth Review. Check here for new reviews, follow me Indonesia or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com