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Friday, December 23, 2011

SINNERS AND SAINTS -- DVD review by porfle

Yet another cop flick set in post-Katrina New Orleans, 2010's SINNERS AND SAINTS thankfully dispenses with the blah-blah politics this time and simply takes advantage of the stricken city's inherent appeal as a gritty and noirish backdrop for war in the streets. 

Much of the film is the usual run-of-the-mill renegade cop vs. vile villains stuff which, in itself, is far from interesting or imaginative enough to hold our interest.  What really makes this one worth watching is the fact that when the cop(s) and the bad guys clash the result is bullet-riddled, bone-crushing 80s-style action.

Johnny Strong (BLACK HAWK DOWN, GET CARTER) stars as Detective Sean Riley, one of those fearless, hardbitten cops with nothing to lose whose file gets a lot of wear and tear down at Internal Affairs.  A series of horrific murders in which victims are set alight, extinguished, and then ignited again repeatedly prompts inexperienced homicide detective Will Ganz (Kevin Phillips) to seek Riley's help, and these unlikely partners get involved in a (mostly negligible) web of intrigue woven by a group of ex-military assassins led by stone-cold killer Crowe (Costas Mandylor, DINOCROC, the SAW series).

Once we learn a bit about Riley's tragic history, Ganz' idyllic home-and-family life, and something about why the bad guys are going around offing people, that's about all we need to know.  After that, we can just sit back and wait for the four or five kickass action setpieces that come along every now and then to raise the film to a higher level.  The opening sequence gets things off to a rousing start as Riley and his associates track down some perps to their hideout and get caught up in a blazing shootout that ends with Riley executing their leader (he deserved it), which then gets him in hot water with his stern-but-sympathetic precinct captain (PLATOON's Tom Berenger in a minor role). 

Before long the bullets start flying again when Riley and Ganz interrupt an immolation and get into another gunfight, this time with the villains being led by Louis Mandylor (BARE KNUCKLES, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING) doing a bang-up job as Crowe's psychotic second-in-command, Cole.  Ordinance aplenty is expended by pistols and machine guns as innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire and a gum-chewing Riley coolly pops caps. 

Later, mayhem ensues again in a mostly abandoned neighborhood as more automatic weapons fire chews up a number of ravaged houses along with various unfortunate people on both sides, ending in a good old-fashioned explosion.  The final action scenes are highlighted by a delightful exchange in which Riley is in the clutches of a whole group of big ugly mofos and manages to take them all out Bruce Willis style before going after the Big Cheese himself.

As Riley, Johnny Strong reminds me somewhat of William Petersen's "Chance" in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.--another cocky, renegade cop with a casual disregard for the rules--only not quite as good.  Kevin Phillips, for whom SINNERS AND SAINTS is a definite step up from the horrible ROCK THE PAINT and the boring PRIDE, does an okay job as the more sedate, by-the-book Ganz, while Costas Mandylor excells as Crowe by not overplaying the part. 

Making brief cameo appearances are Jürgen Prochnow as the Russian crime lord behind it all and the great Kim Coates (who will always be "Chet" from THE LAST BOY SCOUT to me) as a cop who zigs when he should've zagged.  "Star Trek: Enterprise" co-star Jolene Blalock turns up in one scene about halfway through, and Method Man is effectively scary as a vengeful drug dealer named Weddo whose little brother falls victim to the heinous baddies.

Like the script by co-writer Jay Moses, director William Kaufman is merely okay during the talky parts but first-rate when the action heats up.  A lot of the effectiveness of the performances and dialogue scenes is drained away by an overbearing musical score (composed and performed by Strong) that's slathered all over everything like too much mustard on a ham sandwich.  Production values are modest but efficient. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a very brief (about four minutes) "making-of" short and some deleted scenes.

Storywise, SINNERS AND SAINTS is just the same-old same-old that we've seen in countless other mid-level cop flicks.  But once the shooting starts, it's funtime for action fans.

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