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Desert Saints

review by Chad Peter

 

 

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 minutes

Starring: Keifer Sutherland, Melora Walters

Written by: Rich Greenberg and Wally Nichols

Directed by: Rich Greenberg

 

Studio: Artisan

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Trailer

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection

Released: September 17th, 2002

 

 

"Desert Saints" had me fooled. To go into a movie with the preconception that it would turn out bad is not such a good idea, however it does prepare you for the worst. Here's a movie that went straight to video and seemingly hit all the branches of the ugly tree -- and yet, "Desert Saints" is a hidden gem. It's not perfect by any means, and by no means is it a classic, but it retains something that most "B" movies do not:

(Some) Talent.

Two things stand out from the crowd about this picture -- It's mastery of lighting and photography, and Kiefer Sutherland. Both are seriously underrated and both have transformed "Desert Saints" into something nice to actually sit down and watch. I'll get more into the lighting aspect in the "video" section, but more on the actors.

The cast, with the exception of lead actress, Melora Walters ("Magnolia"), was quite nice. Melora's only downfall was that she didn't come off as the type at all who would be in her character's situation. I'm not sure whether to blame this on the screenwriter or the casting department, but I'm a firm believer that Melora wasn't the root of the problem.

Kiefer's character, "Banks," is your everyday stereotypical sniper with no heart. His every response is laced with a stone cold gut. It's funny from time to time (just how hard-core this guy is), and thank god Kiefer Sutherland played this part. Hell, after "Flatliners" and "Stand By Me," I'll buy that he's a professional killer in his spare time.

Anyway, plot time! "Desert Saints" was vaguely remiscent of "U-Turn" mixed with "The Professional." It wasn't anything amazingly brilliant or awe-inspireingly creative. In fact, the story has probably been done about thirty times prior to this. Even the "twist" ending is becoming old hat -- you'd think this whole script was dulled out in twenty days with a screenwriter's manual handy. Had the acting, lighting and art direction not been above average, this film would be reaching for a life saver.

 

The Director of Photography, John C. Newby, whose resume includes nothing but "B" movies, appears to be a genius (take that statement with a grain of salt though because he doesn't know how to move the camera). Here we have a lot of really nice looking art direction mixed with a good eye for lighting schemes and setups. Colors are rich and bright -- I'm assuming that color correction held a large part in the post production process. Despite the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, I'd say this was one nicely shot film.

The digital transfer looks supurb. There were very few scratches or dust specks to grace the screen, which is a surprise coming from Artisan. Colors retained their original glamour and ultimately had a really sweet "film" look coming out of the whole thing.

 

I'm diggin the music selection and the score, but we're only given a Dolby Digital 2.0 English track -- No 5.1, for whatever reason. The soundtrack is fairly simply, and the sound design seems to be fairly non-existent. However, in an odd sort of way, the lack of excess sound does this film well -- and creates a lull atmosphere in a desert setting. We're left with the usual "independent film" feel by the end of the movie though, so even the lull setting is dull and bland.

 

There wasn't even a "special features" option on this disc. Only the extra ability to watch the trailer, which appears to have been made specifically for the DVD as a last minute addition. Seriously, no matter how bad a movie may be, special features are key if you're going to spark any interest what-so-ever in buying your DVD... Incase any of you work for Artisan, I hope you're taking notes.

 

Overall, this movie is "nice," but the dvd lacks the stuff that dvd was made for -- at too high a price for this "B"-ish movie. If you're a fan of lighting and would like to see something that I consider really nice light setups -- give this movie a try and check it out. Do not pick up this film if you're looking for a masterpiece because you'll be looking in all the wrong places. It's definitely rental material -- not actual purchase material.