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Film / The Saint (1997)

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The Saint is a 1997 film based on the character of Simon Templar created by Leslie Charteris. The film stars Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, and Rade Šerbedžija. It was directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick.

In the movie, Templar is caught trying to steal a microchip from Ivan Tretiak, an ex-communist-turned-billionaire who dominates the gas and oil market in Moscow. Tretiak hires Templar to steal the formula for cold fusion from an American scientist named Dr. Emma Russell in exchange for the $8 million needed for him to reach $50 million, the amount Templar needs in order to retire from thievery for life. Assuming the identity of Thomas More, Templar locates Dr. Russell and attempts to get close enough to steal the formula, but things get very complicated shortly after he realizes he is falling for her...

In this version, Kilmer's character does not claim to be the Simon Templar created by Charteris. He is, in fact, an orphan who chooses his name, Simon Templar — the first name from Simon Magus, and the last name from his childhood heroes, The Knights Templar. He refers to himself as Templar only during a flashback sequence at the start of the film.

It should be noted that a) fans of the Saint loathe this movie and b) Leslie Charteris is never mentioned in the credits. Ironically, despite the noted dissonance between this film and the rest of the franchise, it was produced by the same producer who oversaw the 1960s Roger Moore TV series and 1978 Ian Ogilvy revival, and Moore himself provided a voiceover cameo. Even more ironic, for the novelisation of the movie, Burl Barer, a noted Simon Templar historian, was commissioned to write the book, and he took the opportunity to add elements of traditional Saint continuity to the book; around the same time, perhaps to absolve himself of the sin of being connected to this film, he wrote a "traditional" Saint novel, Capture the Saint, which was the first new Saint novel in 13 years.

The Saint provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: When Simon Templar puts on a Southern accent, he sounds just like Val Kilmer's take on Doc Holliday in Tombstone.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Simon Templar is unable to defeat a Russian gangster in hand to hand combat and is forced to flee; this would have been unthinkable in a Charteris tale.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Emma, in more ways than one. She even makes a Lampshade Hanging that, even if she has a heart condition and thus needs them to live, she hadn't needed to take her pills for a while now (after almost keeling over on the back of a police van and Simon gave her a pair that he had palmed off and running all over Moscow for hours).
  • Artistic License – Physics: Not for the premise of someone discovering cold fusion, but for the means by which they do it. In a lecture, Emma provides absolutely no theoretical background or experimental results on which to base her discovery other than to simply write the finished formula on a chalkboard. She openly admits that the entire discovery was based on a gut feeling and hand waves the authenticity of her formula by claiming it's too beautiful to be wrong. Nobody in her audience (who are implied to also be trained scientists) objects to this.
  • Beeping Computers: Full of Hollywood-class super-encryption software that can turn chats between crooks into fully legit articles on tropical flowers on the fly.
  • The Cameo: At the end of the movie the voice of Roger Moore is heard as a radio news narrator mentioning what happened to the arrested Russians, the solving of the heating problem in Moscow, and Emma's cold fusion research getting funded through an Involuntary Charity Donation.
  • Car Cushion: Used as a means of escape in the first heist of the film (the truck was deliberately loaded with large water cushions on the back by Simon).
  • Character Name Alias: All of Templar's aliases are the names of Catholic saints.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Not quite dropped by name, but after Simon rescues Emma from one of Ilya's goons, he tells her "If you want to live, never leave my side."
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Not adapted from a comic book, but in all other ways plays the trope straight.
  • Cool Car: The then-new 1997 Volvo C70 coupe in metallic copper, a manual transmission, custom horn and a stereo playing "You're All I've Got Tonight" in triumph as he makes yet another escape.
  • Corporal Punishment: In the flashback, the priest in charge of the orphanage repeatedly canes Simon while he's bent double in an attempt to get him to accept the name "John Rossi". He doesn't even cry out.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ivan Tretiak. The reason Moscow is undergoing a freezing crisis that has people on the streets rioting and burning everything they can afford to burn in order to keep warm is because he siphoned the oil from the city's heating reserves and hid it in the basement of his home, he invests in cold fusion technology (and when it looks like the tech is useless, he swindles President Karpov into buying it from him... and tried to capture Dr. Russell (so she would make the technology work... and then kill her so he would have exclusivity over it)), hires Simon to steal the technology (and then tried to kill him so he wouldn't have to pay), and performed all of these things so he would be able to perform a coup and take over Russia (with full intent of moulding it back into the superpower it was on the Cold War).
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Simon was an orphaned boy raised in a cruelly strict catholic school. One night, while attempting to escape, his childhood friend Agnes died from a fall when the school brought out its guard dogs. Ever since then, Simon has lost faith in miracles and the like and he still suffers nightmares decades later.
  • Death of a Child: Right in the very first scene when a little girl called Agnes, who the young Simon is attracted to (and vice versa), falls to her death in the orphanage.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: As a boy, when Simon refused to answer to the religiously themed name given to him by the priests at his orphanage even after being whipped, they declared that not only would he not be fed until he acknowledged his name, none of the other boys would be fed either. Simon held out until the priests left, then picked the lock to the pantry.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Not only does the Orbital remix of the Saint main theme plays in the final scene, it turns out that Simon's car has the song as both a custom horn and remote opening beep.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Inverted. Getting Emma to the U.S. Embassy and thus out of immediate danger from Tretiak is a major plot point, as he's powerful enough that anywhere in Russia she could be chased down by police and killed.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Used in reverse. Simon Templar convinces the Russian president to accept Tretiak's accusations of investing state funds in a fraudulent cold-fusion machine project, rather than deny it. When the machine proves to actually work, the president instantly becomes a national hero and Tretiak's credibility is destroyed.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Simon and Emma, to keep some Russian cops from noticing them while they try to reach the U.S. Embassy.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Well, it took about a week. She was mad at him so they had to take things slow.
  • Funny Background Event: After the cold fusion machine works, a TV tuned to the rally shows Karpov waving to the crowd that is now chanting his name.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Ilya manages to get a hand on her back right before she makes it to the embassy, but Emma slips out of her coat and gets away.
  • Go-to Alias: Simon Templar uses various names from Catholic saints for his aliases (even talking about said saints when the other guy doesn't get the picture. In the books, he liked to use the alias "Sebastian Tombs").
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Emma, almost word for word.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: Emma has invented cold fusion, thus solving the world's energy problems. Naturally, many folks want this information quashed.
  • Intimate Healing: Emma saving Simon from hypothermia after he is forced to hide from bad guys in a nearly-frozen river and afterwards they both must hole up in an unheated house.
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: The radio broadcast in the final scene tells us that all of Tretiak's money was "mysteriously" given away to various charity funds and the remainder was used to start a foundation with the mission to assist with cold fusion research: the "Emma Russell Foundation".
  • Kick the Dog: Way too many examples from both Tretiaks, but to provide a specific one: when Ilya and his goons are looking for Simon and Emma in an apartment building, they offer $500 to anybody who can tell them where "the two Americans" are. An old man sarcastically tells them that he's seen "an American and a polar bear" and asks Ilya if he'll give him $250. Ilya unhesitatingly puts a bullet in the old man's brain, scaring all of the other civilians in the room into complying.
  • Lost in a Crowd: Simon's first heist has him escaping from Tretiak's goons by means of dressing like a hobo and walking alongside another one through Red Square (it helps that it was full of people like that as a result of the heating crisis) and ditches it appearing as a tourist. Later Simon manages to go to Emma's lecture in the last scene and sit right next to the lead Scotland Yard detective that is hunting him down almost unnoticed because of his disguise and even briefly trolls the guy (his partner does notice and frantically waves to him and he realizes too late). Once he ditches it, his costume makes the police confuse him for some random British guy that is dressed the same... and the latter gets tackled by the cops as a result.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: In one scene Simon Templar disguises himself as the Big Bad Ivan Tretiak, and trolls him by claiming that the most difficult part of the disguise was pretending to be so lousy in bed.
  • Lovable Rogue: Simon Templar, although it's not until he deals with Emma that he finally performs something not totally mercenary.
  • Lzherusskie: Rade Šerbedžija as Ivan Tretiak, a "humble Russian poet" (with a best-selling book) and a "simple dream" (to Make the Bear Angry Again).
  • Master of Disguise: Simon, natch. It is not until he appears alongside Karpov in the film's denouement that Scotland Yard finally gets a clear picture of how he looks without a costume, after years hunting him down (and he still manages to sit right next to the task force's ranking officer in the very last scene, almost unnoticed).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Val Kilmer in his African artist role, getting money out of his pants, in a way that suggests he is wearing no underwear.
  • Ms Fan Service: Elizabeth Shue in shirt and bobby socks.
  • Musical Nod: Simon's car has the original series theme as a horn tune.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: When Simon bails on Emma (after romancing her, staying the night, and stealing her formula for cold fusion) he leaves behind a bunch of notes reading "I'm sorry".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Tretiak, Ilya, and General Sklarov after the cold fusion machine works and the crowd starts cheering for President Karpov.
    • Simon, when Emma shows up at the bar, having tracked him. And then Emma shortly after, when she gets arrested too.
    • Simon again. He plays a trick on Emma where he uses stuff he read in her diary tp seduce her. Then Emma looks at him and manages to pick out some dark secrets about him (dangerous work, clinging to the pain caused by Agnes' death and his abuse in the orphanage).
  • One Last Job: Simon has a financial goal: fifty million dollars on his account and he calls it quits with being a thief. He hopes the Russell job will be the one which will give him the necessary paycheck...
  • Out-Gambitted: Tretiak tries to get the cold fusion formula in order to force current president Karpov out of office and install himself. When his pet scientist can't make it work, he tries to get his money back and continue his original plan by getting Karpov to endorse it. Except Emma completes the formula and Simon gives it to Tretiak's scientist (who is not aware of Tretiak's new plan) completes the work and gives it to Tretiak. Simon also tells Karpov to agree that he supported it. It works, Karpov is hailed as a hero, and Tretiak and his allies are arrested.
  • Parental Abandonment: Simon is an orphan.
  • Patron Saint: The eponymous Saint discusses (inaccurately, but we'll let it slide) what it takes to be made a Catholic Saint, and he kinda-sorta manages the "Three Miracles" part, at least.
  • Phone-Trace Race: After completing the job for Tretiak, he sends his son and his friends to track him down and kill him. Tretiak's associate in Moscow keeps Simon online (he was using a dial-up modem over a phone line) while Ilya is in London using a laptop with a tracing program to track down the location while on the move. By the time Simon catches on, they've found the hotel (and murdered the receptionist) and have found the room with the phone line he's using. Fortunately, he planned for that too. Simon had another small hotel room and setup a remote wireless modem. So while they are shooting up the room, Simon is able to pack a bag and escape.
  • Police Are Useless: Scotland Yard. It's not until Emma talks to them about halfway through the film that they finally, after years of hunting Simon, get that his aliases follow the motif of being named after Catholic saints, for starters. They have what looks like a dozen different sketches of the various appearances Simon has been sighted in and still don't realize he's standing right in front of them going through an airport security line. One is ready to dismiss him because his accent is different, although the other points out that he could easily be faking it and he has the same eyes but a different build.
  • Safety in Muggles: Templar meets with Tretiak and his son to discuss the Russell job inside of an airport's transit room, which has hefty security, metal detectors and plenty of witnesses if something goes wrong (he mentions that they both will be safe that the other side has been searched thoroughly). Tretiak points out right after Simon arrives that he could have him killed if he actually wanted to.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: From the very first moment he's on screen, Ilya Tretiak shows a rather impressive capacity to know when Simon is around, in several scenes looking almost psychic. The plot, more than Simon's capacity for stealth, is the reason Ilya doesn't get him for most of the film.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • When Simon reveals he wants to sell the cold fusion formula rather than give it away as Emma wants, she tries to run off.
    • As Tretiak tries to escape the rally, General Sklarov orders his troops to catch him and apologizes to President Karpov, blaming a miscommunication in the chain of command. He's still arrested.
  • Single-Season Country: A minor plot point: Ivan Tretiak, the Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad, wishes to start a revolution to Make the Bear Angry Again, and steals all of the heating oil in Moscow to make the people angry (and thus more susceptible to follow his lead) with the fact they are struggling to survive the winter.
  • Spiteful Spit: Ilya, right in the face of a U.S. Marine embassy guard.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Simon tries to pick a lock, only to find that the window is open when he leans against it.
    Simon: I love this country.
    • Later, he casually breaks in (in street clothes, not even a uniform) on Tretiak's scientist, who hits a panic button. There's enough time for them to have a short conversation before the guards burst in, who focus directly on the scientist rather than searching the room, which allows Simon to simply stand against the wall and walk behind them to leave unnoticed.
  • Technical Pacifist: Oddly, the original Saint had no such code (and indeed, periodically shot people).
  • Themed Aliases: All of Simon Templar's aliases are the names of Catholic saints, including Martin De Porres, Bruno Hartenfaust, and Thomas More.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The time skip is labeled simply as "Tomorrow".
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Emma keeps the notes containing her cold fusion formula in her bra.
  • Villain Respect: Tretiak is both amused and impressed by Simon's disguises and mannerisms. More than once, he even claims that he likes him. But..
    Ilya: Too bad we have to kill him.
    Tretiak: Yeah, too bad.


Video Example(s):


The Saint

As a boy, when Simon refused to answer to the religiously themed name given to him by the priests at his orphanage even after being whipped, they declared that not only would he not be fed until he acknowledged his name, none of the other boys would be fed either. Simon held out until the priests left, then picked the lock to the pantry.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeniedFoodAsPunishment

Media sources: