For me, reviewing films is often a rather solitary experience. Under normal circumstances, I usually prefer to watch discs I'm covering alone, so that I can concentrate fully on the movie and technical details without any distractions. While that's all well and good, there's no denying that seeing a film with a group can be a very enjoyable experience that can occasionally even make sitting through bad flicks somewhat bearable (misery does love company, after all). So, in a break from my usual protocol, for my screening of 'Sinners and Saints,' I was actually joined by none other than my dear old dad. A man of eclectic taste, his movie collection is not only full of classics like 'North by Northwest,' but also decidedly less celebrated efforts, such as the modern masterpiece 'Poseidon.' Since he often has a rental queue that's full of many obscure DTV titles that I've never heard of, starring past-their-prime performers or completely unknown casts, 'Sinners and Saints' seemed like a perfect fit for him. Hell, even I went into the whole thing optimistically. The packaging does promise action-packed thrills, and that certainly sounds like fun. Unfortunately, lifeless direction, wooden performances, and a painfully uninspired script pretty much suck most of the fun away. Even my dad -- a connoisseur of random, bottom shelf efforts -- couldn't defend the movie… and again, this is someone who willingly has titles like 'Hardwired' and 'Hunt to Kill' on his queue.
Set in New Orleans, the story follows a brooding police detective named Sean Riley (Johnny Strong) as he tries to solve a series of particularly violent murders. When an old friend shows up (Sean Patrick Flannery), surprising connections are made that reveal a much larger conspiracy involving military cover-ups and deadly mercenaries. With a gang of trained killers on his tail, Riley must put the pieces of the mystery together and take down the bad guys before they get to him first.
The main problem with the film, is its run-of-the-mill, pedestrian script. In reality the story being told is actually very simple, but the manner in which it is presented can be strangely convoluted and at times downright incomprehensible. Scenes feel disconnected and disjointed, with plot developments unfolding in a meandering, unfocused manner. In fact, at one point my dad actually got up, made himself a snack and quietly ate it in another room before eventually returning. Sure, he technically missed quite a bit during his little break (one I wish I could have taken as well) but it didn't actually matter, because, as it turns out, physically watching the movie doesn't make the incompetent plotting any more engaging or clear.
Admittedly, perhaps the story would have been easier to follow if I was at least somewhat invested in the characters, but since the script gives us little reason to care about them, one can't help but completely lose interest. Personalities are culled from stock archetypes, leading to unoriginal, boring clichés. To the writers' credit, attempts at character development and emotional connections are made, but these situations come across as extremely forced. This is particularly true of Riley's bonding moments with his new partner, Will (Kevin Phillips), which are almost laughable. Backstories involving lost loved ones are also ineffective and trite, failing to properly setup a strong internal drive for the characters.
As Sean Riley, Johnny Strong turns in a purely one-note performance. He's gloomy, angry, and… not much else. When bullets are blazing, he's decent enough, but during any attempts at branching out of his usual mode of low taking, grimacing, he completely fails to connect on any substantial level. Even worse is Kevin Phillips, whose stilted, wooden line readings are absolutely eye-rolling. The two actors have zero chemistry, which is a big problem considering that their relationship is one of the key components of the movie. The rest of the supporting cast, including semi-recognizable performers like Sean Patrick Flannery and Tom Berenger, are OK but do little to elevate the groan-inducing script.
While watching the movie, something felt oddly familiar, something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. There was a certain lack of storytelling cohesion and skill that seemed awfully similar to another painful DTV release that I had the great pleasure of reviewing called 'The Hit List.' Imagine my surprise then when I eventually realized that both films happen to feature the same director, William Kaufman. While a definite improvement over that more recent Cuba Gooding Jr. starring vehicle, 'Sinners and Saints' still features a comparably hackneyed directing style. Bursts of flashy, meaningless visual touches attempt to mask and dress up an otherwise empty picture and though fitting enough, the gritty style feels a bit inconsistent and sloppy.
With that said, Kaufman does indeed deserve some praise for the film's action scenes. The only saving grace of the movie, these various shootouts are actually pretty well done, with some solid stunt work. A climactic fight scene and one-man assault are especially fun, and though the final action sequence -- which involves two men outrunning a speeding car -- is ridiculous, it's still staged fairly well. Though cool, without any investment in the characters, all of the action just ends up falling flat. It's entertaining, but sadly empty.
'Sinners Saints' is a subpar action film that features decent stunts that are dragged down by a pedestrian script, amateur direction, and lifeless performances. It isn't nearly as terrible as Kaufman's other exercise in DTV mediocrity, 'The Hit List,' but it's still pretty bad. Even my dad, who usually likes films like this, couldn't find much to enjoy here. Really, aside from a few good action scenes, the only other positive aspect of screening this movie was the fact that I had good company to watch it with. So, if you do decide to check out 'Sinners and Saints,' I definitely recommend seeing it with a group of friends or even your dear old dad. At the very least, your mutual unhappiness will be a nice bonding experience.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Sinners and Saints' is brought to Blu-ray by Anchor Bay on a single BD-25 disc housed in a keepcase. Some skippable trailers play upon startup before transitioning to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A compatible.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Featuring an intentionally stylized look, the film has a rather inconsistent and often harsh appearance that rarely impresses.
The source is in great shape with some light to moderate grain visible, giving the image some gritty texture. Detail ranges from good to merely decent depending on the shot. Despite the solid clarity, there is rarely any sense of dimension to the picture. A very faint smearing quality is also evident in a few instances, though this is infrequent and doesn't hurt the presentation much. The movie veers toward a highly stylized look with blown out contrast and an over-saturated, warm palette. With that said, the style isn't always consistent and some scenes look more washed out and muted. With the exception of a few elevated shots here and there, black levels are deep yet often crushed, obscuring shadow detail. When at its best, the transfer carries a sharp appearance, but the gritty, harsh and sometimes just plain ugly style present an unimpressive and slightly pedestrian image.
For the most part, 'Sinners and Saints' looks just fine with a fittingly rough style. Unfortunately, however, that style is technically and artistically uneven, creating a flat transfer that features a cheap, amateur quality. The video is definitley serviceable but it's far from demo material.
The movie is presented with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Subtitle options include English SDH and Spanish. Though the film is full of shootouts and explosions, the mix is disappointingly mundane, lacking the type of kick one might expect from an action film.
Dialogue isn't always crisp and there are several scenes where speech sounds a little muddy and hard to make out (the bar scene with Sean and Colin is a good example). The film's thumping score has some nice separation across the entire soundstage but other effects offer little in the way of substantial rear activity. Sure, a few fleeting gunshots hit the surrounds, but these instances are rare and ineffective. On that same note, the sound effects themselves lack fidelity, distinction and punch. Even in the most action packed scenes, various blazing bullets and explosions sound surprisingly thin, flat, and directionless. Bass activity is OK (particularly with the music), but again, considering the film's action oriented content, it isn't as aggressive as one might hope. Dynamic range is free of distortion but the gamut of frequencies seems rather small. Balance between the various audio elements is fine.
While by no means a terrible mix, the audio is rarely very immersive. For an action film, this is a very middle-of-the-road track.
'Sinners and Saints' is a below average action flick that fails to offer much in the way of entertainment or substance. Though some of the shootouts are decent enough (particularly near the end), the pedestrian script, boring direction and stilted performances are more laughable than exciting. On the technical side, the disc's video transfer is decent, but the film' cheap, stylized look presents a harsh and uneven experience, and while serviceable, the audio mix is disappointingly flat and mundane. Supplements are sparse and unremarkable, capping off a mediocre disc for an exceedingly mediocre movie. Even those who enjoy typical DTV fare will likely want to skip this.