Review: Saint John Of Las Vegas
PLOT: A down and out gambler turned insurance claims investigator (Steve Buscemi) is sent to Las Vegas by his boss (Peter Dinklage) to investigate a claim. Along the way, he encounters several eccentric characters, while also dealing with his laconic supervisor (Romany Malco).
REVIEW: SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS is everything that’s wrong with modern independent film tied up in one neat little, eighty-five minute package. How something like this gets mainstream distribution, while many of the great films I saw at Sundance may never see the light of day boggles the mind.
You see, SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS is “quirky”, and obviously, the people behind it figured there was no need for this to be entertaining, or even coherent, just as long as it didn’t lose the “quirk factor”. This is a completely pointless film. The characters don’t evolve, and the story (what little of it there is) is never developed. This is just an excuse for Steve Buscemi to walk around for ninety minutes, and mingle with some semi-familiar actors trying to get some indie cred, in pointless little vignettes that go absolutely nowhere.
Hell, even the title is misleading, as Buscemi, who plays the titular John, never even makes it to Las Vegas. They should have called this SAINT JOHN NEAR LAS VEGAS, as, obviously, the budget didn’t exist to ever get to Vegas.
Probably the only good thing I can say about this is that it gives Steve Buscemi a long overdue lead role, although this is such a minor and uninspired film it’s hardly worth his time. Nevertheless, Buscemi does what he can with the material. Hopefully, his upcoming HBO series, BOARDWALK EMPIRE will provide him with a role that will fully exploit his talent.
Besides Buscemi, the only other actor is this film to register is Romany Malco, who used to be on WEEDS, and was one of Steve Carell’s co-workers in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. I always liked Malco, and I’m surprised that Apatow never spun him off into his own film after VIRGIN, as he managed to steal a lot of scenes in that from Carell, Rudd, and Rogan- which is no easy feat. Sadly, he’s all but wasted here, as Buscemi’s laid back, and cool colleague, and a last minute development with his character had me scratching my head.
The film also features Sarah Silverman is a small role as Buscemi’s ‘smiley face’ obsessed office fling. I like Silverman as much as anyone, but she really grates on the nerves in her tiny role. Like Malco and Buscemi, she deserves better. Ditto poor Peter Dinklage- whose small stature in no way diminishes his presence, although he really falls flat as Buscemi’s boss/ romantic rival for Silverman. Anyone who wants to see a truly inspired Dinklage performance should rent either THE STATION AGENT, FIND ME GUILTY, or DEATH AT A FUNERAL (the truly pointless remake of which hits theaters soon, with him re-creating his original scene-stealing role).
SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS really is a pathetic excuse for an indie, and watching the credits, I was amazed that this film managed to snag Spike Lee as an executive producer. This is truly an inconsequential, disposable film, and one that should be avoided unless you happen to be a glutton for punishment.