Thursday, 21 April 2011
Sinners & Saints
SINNERS & SAINTS (2010)
Directed by: William Kaufman
Written by: William Kaufman & Jay Moses
Starring: Johnny Strong, Kevin Phillips, Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flannery, Tom Berenger
Back-to-basics ballistic action is what Sinners & Saints delivers in spades. It’s also got ample tough guy swagger, a rough and tumble vibe and several meaty performances from a game cast which includes some fresh faces and action movie stars from yester year. It’s a down and dirty cop thriller and William Kaufman’s film is a welcome return to the kind of tough guy action films we just don’t see much of anymore.
In a Katrina ravaged New Orleans, bad ass cop Sean Riley (Strong) is facing a suspension with his tired looking captain (Berenger) doing everything he can to keep Riley from screwing up his life. Riley is as tough as they come and after losing his son and being abandoned by his wife, he is becoming increasingly more jaded. After the gunning down of his latest partner (Kim Coates) in a ferocious opening gun battle, Riley is assigned to a new case where brutal slayings, involving burning the victims alive, are plaguing the city. Teamed up with a rookie partner (Phillips), the pair plunge into the darkness of the city and do battle with warring gangs, a rogue team of former combat experienced killers and Riley’s childhood friend (Flannery), who may just be at the center of all the violence and murder.
Sinners & Saints certainly walks the well worn path of a cop thriller: tough, renegade cop with a damaged home life; a rookie partner who is his polar opposite; a new case that will either push him further over the edge or save him from his downward spiral. But Kaufman and his co-writer Jay Moses take these familiar elements and spin them into something that seems incredibly fresh. First off, Johnny Strong gives an impressive performance as the seen-it-all cop and despite being as hard as nails there is a human under there. When his captain tells him to take it easy and reassigns him he refreshingly doesn’t lock horns with him but agrees, showing the two have a friendship beyond their working relationship. Likewise, when he is partnered with Phillips, despite a little trepidation, the two form a realistic relationship becoming friends and backing each other up in the numerous firefights: no clichéd arguments about how to do things or hating each other at first only to then respect each other nonsense. Despite all the seasoned acting talent on hand, Strong and Phillips hold their own and make for some welcome likeable heroes.
In addition to this refreshing take on the usual cop heroes there are also some formidable bad guys on show. For once the villains feel like a threat and thanks to likes of Costas Mandylor, and his brother Louis (who plays a scary eyed killer), are injected with ruthless venom. Costas Mandylor is just awesome as the bad guy increasingly losing his grip on the situation and under pressure from other scary bad guys in the form of gang bosses Jurgen Prochnow and Method Man. In addition, Sean Patrick Flannery also makes an impression as Riley’s at-the-end-of-his-line buddy. Seemingly shot on the streets of New Orleans, still in a ravaged state, Sinners & Saints achieves a fairly gritty tone and feeling, not least in some of the violence which on a few occasions is intensely graphic. The flick sticks to its dark roots and pulls no punches in the death and torture scenes. This is a hard edged thriller.
On top of all this, Kaufman and his team stage some barnstorming action scenes. Mainly of the gunplay/heavy firepower variety (though there are few hand-to-hand fights in there too), the gun blazing action is top notch. Obviously tipping its hat to Heat, the action is staged with verve, clarity and ammo spewing ferocity. There are several sustained set-pieces of machine gun combat as the cops and various bad guys go at one another with high powered weapons. The action scenes are tense, well choreographed, easy to follow and seem devoid of any CGI. This is proper old school action staging. From a quick and merciless raid on a photography studio to an impressive gun battle that ensues when the cops accidentally stumble on the bad guys doing bad things, the action scenes sizzle and place Sinners & Saints high above most independently produced action films.
Sure proceedings do tend to tip into the pulpy side of things (though this never dents the entertainment value) and some may be put off by the overt tough guy swagger and some of the more predictable elements but on the whole Sinners & Saints is impressive: both as an action film and a thriller. Well made, with interesting characters, a tense pace and some corking action scenes this film deserves to find a wide audience. Great stuff.