Desert Saints (2000) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

Desert Saints (2002) went through cable and vid distribution without a theatrical release. It is marketed as a thriller, and is the story of a hit man (Kiefer Sutherland) and the woman (Melora Walters) he hires to help him with a hit.

As the film opens, we see Sutherland check into a Mexican hotel with his wife, whom we don't see, in what is actually a scene near the end of the movie. Then the movie proper starts with him killing and burying his female partner, the feds finding the body, and his recruiting Walters. We then replay the hotel scene, but this time with Walters.

NUDITY REPORT

see Tuna's comments (in white)

This is at about the 20 minute mark.

At this point, you can safely cut to the last 5 minutes, where we see the full version of the entering the hotel scene, then the aftermath, where they pull off a surprise ending, and then another after the screen goes black for the credits. The only thing you would miss is the breast exposure from Walters, first through a partially open bathroom door, where we never see her face, and then in a long but boring sex scene with Sutherland.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

I thought it was a movie with a good handful of cards that misplayed some of them. It wasn't bad, but it needed some fixin'.

  • As Tuna pointed out, there was absolutely no need for the structural peculiarities.
  • It does have some credibility problems in the original premise. If Sutherland is that smart a killer, and has stayed untouched for so long, he just isn't going to pick up a hitchhiker and make her his partner within a few hours. No freakin' way.
  • Sutherland also doesn't get suspicious of the hitchhiker when he tries to shoot her and finds that the simple hippie girl emptied the clip on his gun. What did she need to do, wear a convention badge that said "Hello, I am an undercover fed"?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Full-screen format

  • no meaningful features

Given a few minor changes, the story could have played out very well chronologically without any flash forwards or other tricks. The plot had about four pretty nifty twists at the end, and I thought they were generally pretty cool. I figured out one of them, but the others were pleasantly surprising.

I also kinda enjoyed Kiefer Sutherland as the brilliant Ivy league hired killer who isn't quite as tough as he would like to pretend, but is tough enough. 

The Critics Vote

  • filmcritic.com 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: no theatrical release
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Tuna says, "I am a big fan of thrillers, but am also very critical when I feel they are badly done, and the narrative structure of this one robbed most of the possible suspense. Even the surprise ending wasn't that surprising. Genre fans will be able to enjoy it." Scoop says, "I agree. I suppose I liked it more than Tuna because he didn't enjoy the character development  dialogue in the middle of the film and fast-forwarded to the point where the film resumed forward motion. I thought Kiefer's character was entertaining, and enjoyed some of the dialogue in the static portion of the film. But C is the right score. It is a serviceable thriller, not capable of being a theatrical blockbuster, but excellent by the standard of non-theatrical films. It's not a great thriller, but it might have been with a different approach to the structure."

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