Published Feb 04, 2010It isn't often that a film is made where it genuinely seems like the director has no idea what he was doing. Sure, they can muddle up tone and pacing by miscalculating how scenes might play out when juxtaposed, or they might get swept up in an idea that never really gels, but rarely do they seem absent altogether.
In Saint John of Las Vegas, performers go unchecked, scenes drone on after actors stop acting, various shots serve no discernable purpose, staging is frequently pathetic and vignettes randomly drift off into oblivion. In other words, it's a mess.
In between awkward, religiously staged, surrealist fantasies existing to reinforce the theme of Dante's purgatory, an insurance claims adjuster named John (Steve Buscemi) winds up on a road trip to the outskirts of Vegas with the intimidating Virgil (Romany Malco) to disprove a pricy claim made by a hooker. Sarah Silverman plays a romantic interest with an affinity for hair pulling, and a variety of bizarre sideshow characters enter in and out of the narrative with and without clothing, and/or the ability to walk.
Essentially, we have two unlikable douchebags encountering peculiarities galore on a quest towards personal enlightenment. Aside from a handful of folks keen on quirk for quirks sake, it is unlikely anyone will care when this lacklustre epiphany comes about.
With Buscemi playing a dishevelled gambling junkie and secondary performers to the tune of Peter Dinklage and Tim Blake Nelson, something could easily have come from this eccentric curiosity. Unfortunately, all we get are one-note ciphers going through the motions of picaresque abandon with the hopes of creating an indie cult hit.
Overlooking the non-existent direction, and the tired Odd Couple pairing that bogs down a large part of the poorly paced 85-minute running time, some viewers may find amusement in the occasional random cameo. Others will just be confused as to what any of this has to do with the referenced Dante's Inferno. (Kinosmith)