The Lives of the Saints

Starring: David Leon, Bronson Webb and Marc Warren
Tartan Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 12 March 2007

On the hard street of Haringey, Roadrunner, a petty criminal who works for the violent Mr Karva, stumbles across a mute child who he believes to be an angel; he takes him to the home of Othello, Mr Karva's stepson. When it becomes apparent that the child can somehow make dreams come true Othello comes into conflict with his stepfather Karva, who feels that his criminal influence is being challenged by the child's existence, though even Karva hopes that the child holds the chance of his redemption from his sins...

The Lives of the Saints (2006) was directed by Chris Cottam and Rankin, better know as a renowned photographer and founder of style magazine Dazed and Confused. The film was nominated for a Golden Leopard at the 2006 Locarno International Film Festival.

Initially you're thinking: "Oh god. Not another English gangster film which will disappoint". However, you quickly realise that this film exists in an altered fantastical reality which lifts the film up from its nihilistic roots, where even a touch of heaven holds a hint of hell.

The supposed miracles soon turn to dust. A young mother who presumes that she has found her long lost stillborn son, though the audience can seen that he is a wino, looses him once more. The local priest (Marc Warren) who finds the grace to accept his sexuality and perform as a drag artist is badly beaten by homophobes. Even Othello's financial gains drain through his fingers like sand. The child becomes a focus for the characters desires, an object to be fought over, in the end it is the characters greed, rather than the child which tears their world apart.

The Lives of the Saints is an interesting, if flawed, film. The script by Tony Grisoni, who had previously penned Brothers of the Head (2005), Tideland (2005) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), uses faux Shakespearean dialogue which adds to the films overall feeling of gravitas. The cast is excellent and deliver the lines with no hint of self-consciousness. James Cosmo steals the show as the unrepentant bad guy Karva, almost revelling in his own sense of wickedness. If nothing else, the film will be remembered for Karva's antics with a blow torch and his predilection for chucking cats into deep fat fryers.

The fusion of the fantastical and grubby works remarkably well, though this is not to say that the film is without its faults. The greatest weakness the film exhibits is its script. Whilst Cottam and Rankin have no problem making the film visually entertaining and the cast do a generally sterling job, the script just doesn't do the film justice. There are far too many weaknesses, there is not enough character development and the interrelations of the characters fall short of convincing.

The film boasts a nice print with audio options for stereo, 5.1 and DTS, extras consist of the original theatrical trailer and a behind the scenes feature.

So, what we have here is a great cinematic opening shot from Cottam and Rankin, which shows much promise, but could have done with a tighter script. Not brilliant, but certainly not a waste of your time either.

Charles Packer

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