Sinners and Saints

Posted on July 24, 2013

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This kept popping up on my Netflix recommendations, so I took a risk. I can’t imagine why Netflix would think that I would like a gritty cop drama. Maybe it was because Kevin Phillips was in S.W.A.T.: Firefight.

It should say a lot that I don’t remember much of what the synopsis says is in the movie. What I do remember is Det. Sean Riley (Johnny Strong) and Det. Will Ganz (Kevin Phillips) working together to solve a string of grisly, drug-related, murders.

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Verdict

Forgettable. Mostly forgettable.

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It’s tough to pin down where the fault of this lies, but it’s not with the cast.

Although Johnny Strong has mostly worked as a stunt man, he’s a fine, magnetic, presence on the screen.

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The cast includes Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Tom Berenger, Method Man, Kim Coates, Jurgen Prochnow, and Jolene Blalock. So it has plenty of star power.

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I felt that the film rarely used the New Orleans location effectively. It could have been any Gulf city.

Frankly, I felt that the fault had to be somewhere in either the writing or the directing. Since William Kaufman wrote and directed, I’m looking squarely at him.

Let me say three negative things about the writing.

First, it substitutes gore for story development. The bad guys are really, really, bad because of the vicious things they do. However, the film never establishes why we should care about the people killed. It does not clarify why killing drug dealers and gang members is bad for New Orleans. It does not explain why our main characters care about the crimes. Instead, we get grisly crime scenes.

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Second, it substitutes action for suspense. John Rogers (creator of Leverage) wrote a great essay on this subject over at i09.com. If you want to write, you should read that. The brief summary is that since we expect the protagonist to survive to the end of the movie, that character isn’t actually in any real danger so the action scenes are boring. That is a problem for Sinners and Saints. I remember the end of the movie, but nothing from the middle, because only at the end was Sean Riley in any real danger.

Third, it establishes characters well, but it doesn’t develop them. As I have said before, the climax of the story should come when the protagonist faces his greatest fear to get his greatest desire. This movie does not establish or develop either trait for Sean, our protagonist.

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Now let me say something good about the writing:

William Kaufman is early in his career as both a writer and as a director. If he is already producing material this polished, we can look forward to some exciting stuff in the future. There is potential here, even if Sinners and Saints never reaches its full potential.

On a related note, the editor (who is also an actor) is equally early in his career. It shows. There aren’t any egregious errors or anything, but the timing is off in places.

As an alternative, consider seeing The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, with Nicolas Cage. There’s more character development, it uses the location better, and the story is better structured. Mind you, it’s directed by Werner Herzog, who has had more time to learn his trade.

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Posted in: Movies