There Are No Saints

***

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

There Are No Saints
"It does pretty much as it says on the wrapper: and if some of us do not have the stomach to stay the course, that is on us, not the filmmakers." | Photo: Altitude Releasing

There Are No Saints, aka The Jesuit, is yet another “not for me” sort of film. How come? After all, it is revenge fare. We open as bad boy, Neto Niente (José María Yazpik), is released from prison when it turns out he was fitted up for the crime he’s been inside for.

He emerges to a less than enthusiastic response from his estranged wife, Nadia (Paz Vega), and a hero’s welcome from teenage son, Julio (Keidrich Sellati). Also, to an ambush and police brutality from the local cops, who, in the great tradition of US film police everywhere, reckon he can’t possibly be innocent. Therefore, the sensible thing to do is follow him around and hassle him at every turn, on the basis that sooner or later he will revert to type and they can bang him up again.

Copy picture

Unfortunately for Neto – and Nadia – the latter has fallen foul of local crime boss Vincent (Neal McDonough). Vincent “offs” Nadia, kidnaps son Julio, and legs it across the border into Mexico, and Neto, as a good, law-abiding citizen, reports the matter to the police and it is a very short film indeed!

Who am I kidding? Of course, the police aren’t going to believe Neto. So, he heads south on his own, leaving in his wake an ever-lengthening roll call of violently terminated corpses. Along the way he picks up Inez (Shannyn Sossamon) who backfills another role you will likely be familiar with from films of this genre. Yes, Inez is the tart with a heart of gold, who comes along, initially, for the money, and then sorta falls in love with Neto. And the body count goes on mounting!

Turns out the real villain of the piece is not Vincent, but Sans (Ron Perlman) who will, in the dying minutes of the film add a plot twist, a moral twist of his own. That, then, is pretty much that. If you’ve seen one revenge flick, you’ve seen them all.

Neto survives peril after peril in increasingly improbable fashion because…because you just know he has to. Because you’ve seen John Wick. You’ve seen The Equalizer. And The Outlaw Josey Wales. Except Josey Wales, Neto is not. For Josey in the end, finds peace with his enemies and, minor spoiler, we end with the realisation that Neto never will.

What then served as turn-off? First, the level of violence. While I, as viewer and reviewer do love a good revenge arc, most of those mentioned feature a lot of cartoon violence. Sure, the blood gets splatted across the screen in copious amounts. But that’s it. Whereas No Saints/The Jesuit is revoltingly graphic in its depiction of violence and, yes, torture. It is always a bad sign, movie-wise, when I find myself having to look away during a scene – and here I found myself looking away on several occasions.

Just…no! There is an unpleasant sadism at work here on the part of director Alfonso Pineda Ulloa, working off a screenplay by Paul Schrader – and just liking John Wick does not guarantee you’ll get along with this.

It is also, minor spoiler here, not a morality tale in any sense. Neto may walk the walk of the wronged man taking revenge. But in the end, we discover he is as flawed as every villain he puts down along the way.

Is this a bad film, then? Not at all. It does pretty much as it says on the wrapper: and if some of us do not have the stomach to stay the course, that is on us, not the filmmakers. It is competently made, with heavyweight actors such as Perlman and McDonough holding up well under pressure. There is also a great little cameo from Tim Roth as Neto’s cynical, potty-mouthed realist of a lawyer. If ever I am accused of a capital crime, I’m asking for Tim!

There is also a minor mystery over why this film has spent so long in the gestation. It went into pre-preproduction around a decade back. Yet it is only now emerging onto the mainstream. Hidden masterpiece? Problem child? Unless, I miss something, it is neither.

No Saints is a revenge thriller/action movie following in the well-trod steps of many a similar film. The downside is that it really is not for the faint-heated.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2022
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When a man who was wrongfully imprisoned discovers his wife has been murdered and his son kidnapped, he hatches a plan for vengeance.

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