Anchor Bay’s latest DVD release, “Sinners and Saints,” starring Johnny Strong, Kevin Phillips, Method Man, Tom Berenger, Costas Mandylor, and Bas Rutten, has just come out earlier this month. Direct to DVD is typically translated to mean a “meh movie,” so can this film overcome that distinction, or will you be seeing this on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart? Let’s take a look and break this thing down!
Here is your quick spoiler-free synopsis of the film:
“In the gritty New Orleans underbelly, beleaguered Detective Sean Riley is trying to cope with the death of his young son and his failed marriage. Facing a probable suspension from the department, Riley is teamed with a young homicide Detective, Will Ganz, to help solve a series of brutal murders that have plunged the city into a major gang war. The two quickly realize there is something much bigger and far more sinister going on than either could have ever imagined.”
Johnny Strong’s character, Sean Riley, is that douchebag at the bar that purposely cock-blocks you, purely because he can. He is pretty unlikeable in the beginning of the movie, trying to play that bad-ass cop with a heart of gold gimmick. Unfortunately, him and his team of cops at the start of the film just come off as braindead morons who must have skipped every class at the Police Academy, otherwise they would know how to properly enter a barricaded home with an armed gang inside. This is hardly a spoiler alert, but their terrible police work is what gets most of Strong’s unit slaughtered instantly (with him being the convenient sole survivor). Even after getting to know him halfway into the film, he is still not the most riveting character emotionally (I would call it flat acting), but the dude can fight and shoot and that is what matters in a movie like this.
Strong’s partner in the film ends up being a homocide detective played by Kevin Phillips, who will be appearing later this year in George Lucas’ “Red Tails” film. On his own, Phillips is bland, but when teamed up with Strong, the two bounce off each other nicely. That seems to be the best that can be said about our two leads, is that it takes another actor to push them to make their skills better. Depending on the scene, sometimes the characters will be stronger than in others, so just be patient and hang on tight for the pay-off.
The most interesting character to me was the one of the villains, played expertly by Louis Mandylor. His modest insanity and bad guy tactics are fun to watch, augmented by his Australian accent that makes anything he says sound more intense and evil. Costas Mandylor plays the main baddie, who reminds me of Michael Ironside from “Total Recall” in the best way possible.
The film gets interesting pretty quickly, as a strange group of mercenaries begin storming various locations and beginning a disturbing series of human-arson acts. Speaking of which, in terms of graphic violence, “Sinners and Saints” implements a mainly digital series of special effects for their gunshots and blood, but they make up for that with their revolting burn victims that are rather crucial for the plot. Nothing like a charred body to wash away the taste of a CG shootout.
While the acting in the film is not superb, it’s good enough for a direct-to-DVD release. It’s not a group of laughably bad actors trying to get a break, but some decent up-and-comers who are growing their chops, so kudos to the casting director for finding a solid cast that makes the film work.
The film features some other notable actors like Tom Berenger, Sean Patrick Flannery, and Method Man in supporting roles. Method Man is definitely the most interesting character of this group, but I can not say anything else without spoiling what happens. MMA fans will recognize Bas Rutten in this film as one of the main villain’s enforcers, named Dekker. Most of the time, Rutten just stands vigil as a silent bodyguard with the director tossing an occasional reaction shot his way in various scenes with his boss. His fight has the most MMA techniques in it, but being a bad guy means that he most certainly will die, and his death is quite entertaining.
Most of the action scenes are shootouts in urban settings, typically a strong hold situation where one group is trying to assault another’s hide-out or location. There is a very cool knife fight towards the final act of the film that is gritty and exciting, and made me wish there was more hand to hand combat rather than gun fights. Diana Lee Inosanto, daughter of Dan Inosanto, was a co-producer on this film, so it is no surprise that we would get such a wonderfully choreographed blade fight scene, I just wish Bas Rutten had a chance to get his hands dirtier and help have more hand to hand fights in the movie.
Overall, I was modestly impressed with the plot for the film and how involved I became in the cast and conspiracy of what was happening. While the acting will not win any awards, this is a group of promising young actors who are growing into their abilities, so consider this your chance to see them before they hit it big. “Sinners and Saints” harkens back to the good ole’ action films of the 80’s and 90’s, but with a modern flair and broad group of supporting actors to flesh this detailed plot out.
You can order “Sinners And Saints” from Amazon for around $12. The DVD also includes deleted scenes, and a very short behind-the-scenes feature. If you are a fan of action films, give it a shot (pun intended).