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'Saint' Nick Delivers a Puzzling Early Christmas Gift (Review)

t I’d hoped for. I tend to find excesvely absurd enjoyment out of damn near any holiday themed genre effort, but Saint left me feeling far more perplexed than fulfilled. There are some wonderful qualities on display, but there’s a jumbled story beneath the glitz, and I’m having trouble deciding if the disorientation within the script is a result of mediocre writing, or a murky translation job. Given the fact that the film’s focal flaws can be best detected in the dialogue of the picture, I’m inclined to believe the latter.

What makes the dialogue so frustrating isn’t mply that it’s terribly written or poorly delivered, it’s the fact that the film is dubbed in English, and it’s ealy one of the worst dub’s I’ve ever heard. It’s common fare to find stiff actors; it’s a completely different experience when the actors are great, but those enlisted to translate the picture via last minute overdub are stiffer than a 13 year old boy at 7 a.m. The whole ordeal feels like two entities battling each other, and the stellar onscreen performances are nearly cancelled out by the nauseating English dubs. It’s all too damn conflicting, and there’s no other way to say it.

The story focuses on the legend of St. Nicholas, and in this particular instance, the man has a nasty history. See, rather than the generous image we typically manufacture here in the U.S., these Dutch fellas have concocted a dark, disturbing account in which St. Nick plunders small villages and murders families in their homes whenever the fifth of December happens to coincide with a full moon. After a dwindling community fights back and burns St. Nick alive, a real life urban legend is birthed, and that frightening concept has been thriving for centuries, and proving to be far more than a mple urban legend.

It’s actually a really fun idea to play with, and aesthetically the film is quite pleang. There are some absolutely mesmerizing shots of Amsterdam, shrouded in a thick winter snowfall. Dick Maas and Guido van Gennep do a great job of making bright colors dance in contrast to the sleek black backgrounds of what should be joyous holiday nights, and the visual effects, though primarily digital are reasonably well executed; there aren’t too many shots plagued by obnoxious CGI. A few fun nods are tossed in the mix, and while not every scene resonates, a quick tip of the hat to George Miller’s, Mad Max, and a nice little tribute to Rick Rosenthal and John Carpenter’s Halloween II work quite well.

Dick Maas knows how to bring vibrant colors, terrific surroundings and fine set pieces to life. He’s also very, very capable of syphoning high caliber performances from relatively green performers. Unfortunately, I don’t think he had much control of the English dubbing process, and ultimately, that’s the film’s greatest flaw. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be such a glaring weakness, but in this specific instance, it transforms what seems a solid script into a convoluted piece of shit that’s so far from humorous its embarrasng (I’ve got a feeling there are some nice laughs via native tongue), and degrades some impresve performances in a way that borders on unimaginable. It all makes for a tough equation that’s more frustrating than rewarding.

If you're afforded the opportunity to catch this one with English subtitles, rather than dubs, I'd strongly, strongly recommend you seize the chance. It's practically guaranteed to make for a superior viewing experience.

Grade: C
Matt_Molgaard Wednesday 9/21/2011 at 02:51 AM | 83071