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The Saint--A Lovable Rogue and a Pretty Scientist Battle the Russians for Cold Fusion

Athlyn Green enjoys good movies and discusses these with readers who may be looking to add to their home libraries.

Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer is the lovable rogue, Simon Templar, in the 1997 version of The Saint

Val Kilmer is the lovable rogue, Simon Templar, in the 1997 version of The Saint

Simon and Emma Race Against Time and the Russians for a Cold Fusion Formula

The Saint movie was a pleasant surprise. I first rented this film but as soon as I'd seen it, I wanted a copy for my home library. Val Kilmer is brilliant in his role as Simon Templar, an identity-changing daredevil. His acting ability shines as he assumes the different personas of dead saints.

As a young orphan at the Saint Ignatius Orphanage, he takes on the name of Simon Templar after the saint of magic. Years later, he has left the orphanage and priests behind but his childhood and a childhood love haunt him. He is a master thief and uses his skills as a master of different disguises. He has, in fact, been dubbed "The Saint" by law enforcement officials for using the names of Catholic saints as aliases.

Elizabeth Shue portrays Emma Russell, a shy yet brilliant scientist who also was scarred from her early experiences at a Catholic school and memories of a boy she loved.

The two meet up because Simon, who has plans to retire comfortably from his life of crime and needs just one more heist to put him at the $50 million mark, has been hired by the Russian Mafia to steal the formula for cold fusion, a formula Emma is near to completing. What should have been simple becomes complicated when he falls for Emma and she falls for him. He's torn between a sizable pay-off, if he delivers the goods, and the pretty and vulnerable scientist whose innocence is captivating. The two misfits are drawn to each other.

Even after Emma discovers Simon isn't who he said he was, she can't shut off her feelings for him. He is exciting, bold, daring and she's head over heels in love with him. When her formula disappears, along with Simon, she sets out to Moscow to find him.

What makes this film work so well is the humor and one-liners throughout the film. The Russian crime boss Tretiak admires Templar's daring. And when Simon makes wisecracks, Tretiak initially feels surprised admiration, even though he plans to kill him. Tretiak, a rule-breaker, can relate when Simon pushes boundaries.

In contrast, the crime boss's son, IIya, is the perfect cold-blooded killer who has no admiration or patience for Simon's tactics and flair for criminal behavior. What makes this so funny is that Templar taunts Ilya, calling him sonny and offering him lip gloss (see scene in video below) much to Ilya's dismay, and later on, as the two go head-to-head, Ilya ends up badly burned and scarred. He truly gets his just desserts for tangling with Simon.

When Crime Does Pay

Simon sets out to steal a microchip from Tretiak's oil company, is discovered by Ilya, but eludes him and escapes with the microchip. Tretiak, an oil and gas oligarch, knows that someone who could pull off such a heist and elude capture is the perfect man for a job he has in mind, and he promptly contacts Simon and hires him to steal a cold fusion formula.

Simon Assumes One of His Disguises and Meets Tretiak and Ilya

A Criminal With Style

Simon is one of the world's most interesting and successful thieves. He's debonair, humorous, a master of disguise, and adept at disappearing. As changeable as a chameleon, Simon manages to outwit the police again and again, much to their chagrin.

Simon and Emma Join Forces

Templar has no family and no home and the name, Simon Templar, is fictitious. He becomes known in the underworld and to authorities as The Saint for his use of the names of Catholic saints. He is one of the world's most successful and elusive thieves, outwitting the police again and again.

He takes what he hopes will be his last job before he retires from crime and is hired by the Russian Mafia to steal a formula for cold fusion from scientist Emma Russell who is working on it at Oxford. While it looks to be straight-forward--he'll wow the pretty scientist to get the formula--things go awry when falls for her. He still steals the formula but now, it becomes a race against time, as Simon tries to protect her and save her life.

As things heat up, Simon and Emma join forces to outwit Tretiak and his cronies and give cold fusion to the world. And, of course, in the process they discover each other.


Elizabeth Shue plays the sweet Dr. Russell.

Elizabeth Shue plays the sweet Dr. Russell.

Favorite One-Liners

  • Friends. Countrymen. Russians!
  • Now that the people are nicely beginning to freeze, Tretiak must sweep in from the wings with a miracle.
  • And since you know that I'm not armed and I know that you're not armed, we can all fall in love and no one gets hurt.
  • You don't believe in all this cold fusion mumbo-jumbo, do you?
  • If you think that by giving cold fusion to the world and giving up unimaginable wealth you'll make us happy, you're right.

Main Characters

  • Simon Templar (Val Kilmer)
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  • Dr. Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue)
  • Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija)
  • Ilya (Valeriy Nikolaev)

Character Contrasts


Emma - innocent and idealistic

Simon - more experienced with the ways of the world

Tretiak - sense of humor and a patient weasel

Ilya - cold and humorless. A hunter




Rade Serbedzija plays Tretiak.

Rade Serbedzija plays Tretiak.

Simon Talking to Emma

"You have to be a very good, and usually a very dead person to become a saint."

— Simon

Catholic Saints Mentioned in This Movie

Buro Houtenfaust - A wealthy man who had wine, women, and song, and who took a vow of poverty and ran off to the forest to lead a hermit's life.

Martin de Porres - An abandoned and illegitimate son to a Spanish gentlemen, he later joined the Dominicans and distributed money to the poor and looked after the sick. He was said to have miraculous abilities.

Saint Augustine - A Christian theologian and philosopher. He led a hedonistic lifestyle, which included as longstanding affair, and later wanted to become a celibate priest. He confessed that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust. And he continued to have relationships with women. He converted to Christianity, became a priest, and later a bishop.

Thomas More - A lawyer, philosopher, author, statesman and humanist who was torn between his career and becoming a monk. He was, beheaded for treason.

Vincent Ferrer - A Dominican friar who helped the poor and converted many to Catholicism.

Simon's References to Saints

My name is Buro Houtenfaust. I was named for a Saint who was a very wealthy man. He had the wine, the women, the songs, the whole bit, and then inexplicably, took a vow of poverty and became a hermit. Ran off to live in the forest, in the nude.

I am Marin Depores. I am from Spain but I am named for a Peruvian Saint, who could cure the sick, or the injured, by the laying of hands.

My name is Thomas Moore. I was named after a Saint who died for his faith.

My name is August Christopher. I was named for St. Augustine, who coined my favorite phrase, "Give me chastity and give me constancy, but do not give it yet."

A Movie That Will be Enjoyed Again and Again

Modern Version Has Fans

This version of the Saint has been criticized for not staying true to the context of author Leslie Charteris's popular character, the Saint, which had its day in the sun and may have been more suited to audiences of that particular time.

This modern version may be considered a truer reflection of what modern audiences want and Kilmer's Saint is more likeable because he's a rogue with a big heart. Kilmer fans will not be disappointed in his expert interpretation and handling of multiple personas and the movie has enough going for it that it stands on its own merit.

This movie combines so many good elements: suspense (the beginning reminds one of a Pink Panther film), psychological elements (seen in flashbacks), high tech gadgets and disguises, bad guys, action, chases, hot cars, humor, romance, and a good subplot about the enduring quality of first love and belief that magic can happen in people's lives.

One of my favorite movies and I highly recommend it.

The Saint Through the Years


Based on the character of Simon Templar created by Leslie Charteris in 1928

The Saint character appeared in movies made between 1938-1954

A radio series in the 1940s saw different people playing Templar

Roger Moore starred in a British television series in the 1960s

Another series in the 1970s

1997 espionage thriller (with Kilmer)

© 2012 Athlyn Green


Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on May 28, 2013:

Yes, I was aware of this. This demonstrates that a good concept can be spun into different versions.

Val does an excellent job of the different saints in this but, of course, this is to each person's preference.

Thanks for stopping by.

Bernie Ment from Syracuse, NY on May 27, 2013:

I was intrigued by your article. Were you aware that The Saint was a tv series in the 1960s that starred Roger Moore of James Bond fame? The series ran for 6 seasons. There was also a series of tv movies in 1989 that starred Simon Dutton and a new version this year made for television. Not being much of a Val Kilmer fan, I'd recommend any of those versions over the bastardized Hollywood version any day. Nice hub, though.

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