Many direct-to-vids are less like recognizable old friends than crashing bores who grab your lapels at a party. The flavorful SAINTS AND SINNERS introduces a brand new acquaintance to the jaded viewer. Although the film's criminal testing ground is familiar terrain, these saints and
sinners shout down their demons of guilt in freshly conceived and exhilaratingly authentic ways.
Having run afoul of the power hierarchy at his previous precinct, former street tough turned idealistic cop Dave "Pooch" Puccia (Damian Chapa) is reassigned to the rough neighborhood where he grew up. Unbeknownst to his life-long pal, Big Boy Baynes (Scott Plank), Pooch is working undercover to
bring down Big Boy's drug trafficking operation. As an accomplice to Big Boy and the suspicious Juanito (Panchito Gomez), Pooch provides muscle for their ongoing efforts to consolidate Big Boy's influence with uptown mobsters Tony (Bob Larkin) and Tommy the Cow (Charles Guardino). What Pooch
doesn't know is that his superior officer McCone (William Atherton) is a crooked cop prepared to sacrifice Pooch and the other small-timers at the behest of the Mafiosi. With his life and career on the line, Pooch complicates the betrayal equation by falling for goodtime gal Eva (Jennifer Rubin),
who comes between Pooch and Big Boy via a menage a trois. Too late, Pooch realizes that Eva is working for Tony and Tommy. Smelling a rat, Pooch feeds false info to McCone in order to save Big Boy from a mob ambush disguised as McCone's police sting. In a barrage of bullets, Pooch is wounded, but
the other mobsters are killed. After McCone's duplicity is uncovered, a redeemed-by-love Eva encourages Pooch to turn himself in, so they can enroll in a witness protection program.
Viewers who have endured countless stuck-in-the-mud action pics will be pleasantly suprised by SAINTS AND SINNERS. Its greatest strength (besides gritty direction) is dialogue that realistically approximates street vernacular while maintaining an artful, exaggerated quality uniquely its own.
Thanks to the screenwriter's loving care, the audience is alert to stylized poetic resonances of the kind most crime flicks don't bother with. If the screenplay's undercurrents about crooked cops allied with mobsters are interwoven into the central story line rather perfunctorily, the scenes
involving drug trade have a jagged immediacy (particularly one in which a grade school drug runner dies planting a bomb at Juanito's and another in which Juanito shoots a quivering messenger to demonstrate his authority).
However, realism is only one of this startlingly intense film's assets. It magnetizes the audience by evoking the affection between Big Boy and Pooch, a love that circumstance will soon compromise and destroy. Equally mesmerizing is Pooch's passion for opportunist Eva, so afraid of this emotional
upheaval that she tries to diminish its magic by including Big Boy in the relationship. For once in the macho-dominated action arena, a female protagonist is neither Victoria's Secret window-dressing nor a one-note Jezebel. Although she's self-destructive, Eva's expediency, unlike Pooch's survival
scheme, does not involve the betrayal of a friend. Yet even Pooch's department-sanctioned back-stabbing makes dramatic sense in this movie's bleak universe, where everybody is someone else's patsy. In SAINTS AND SINNERS, saving one's neck becomes an art form. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity,extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: Many direct-to-vids are less like recognizable old friends than crashing bores who grab your lapels at a party. The flavorful SAINTS AND SINNERS introduces a brand new acquaintance to the jaded viewer. Although the film's criminal testing ground is familia… (more)