There Are No Saints Review: Paul Schrader’s Gruesome Actioner Hits Hard

Posted 2022/05/26 4 0


Famed screenwriter Paul Schrader goes ultra gritty in a bloody actioner that savages the innocent. There Are No Saints has a recently released sicario facing retribution for his heinous past crimes. The protagonist, if you can call him that, is branded “The Jesuit” for his specialty in medieval torture methods à la the Spanish Inquisition. The narrative suffers from generic action tropes; but gets a pass for its brutal characters and willingness to defy convention. Women and children aren’t spared the horror of violence. The film lives up to its title where nearly everyone is a despicable criminal.

Texas news outlets are stunned to report that the infamous Mexican hitman, Neto Niente (José María Yazpik) aka The Jesuit, has been unconditionally released from prison. His death sentence thrown out after the arresting officer admitted to planting evidence. Neto’s scumbag lawyer, Carl (Tim Roth), picks him up with his passport, a bag of cash, and a dire warning. Get the heck out of town immediately. Everyone from law enforcement to rival gangsters wants Neto in a body bag.

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Neto doesn’t heed his lawyer’s sage advice. He has to see his son, Julio (Keidrich Sellati), before skipping town. Neto’s ex-girlfriend, Nadia (Paz Vega), allows them to reconnect. The boy draws religious pictures of his father. He doesn’t believe the awful things said about him. Nadia also begs Neto to leave. Her current boyfriend, Vincent (Neal McDononough), a ruthless real estate developer, won’t take kindly to Neto’s visit. Nadia and Carl prove to be correct. Neto must revert to his old ways as another old adversary (Ron Perlman) seeks vengeance.

Establishing The Jesuit

There Are No Saints establishes early on that Neto Niente earned his nickname. The film flashes back to Neto methodically torturing people. These scenes are gruesome to watch. Prison taught Neto regret, but his enemies aren’t giving him a pass. The Jesuit has to repeatedly defend himself from attackers. He shreds baddies in bone-crushing action. Neto also takes a beating throughout. He pays a severe price for his past transgressions.

I would normally criticize one-note characters. The supporting ensemble here serves a purpose with their narrow exposition. Vincent, like Neto, kills without remorse. It doesn’t matter who gets in his way. He has no deep well of understanding to draw subtlety. Another example is Inez (Shannyn Sossamon), a stripper who falls for Neto and risks her life to help him. Her “stand by my man” ethos fits her reckless personality. Inez doesn’t leave to achieve a higher purpose. Her disregard for personal safety doesn’t make a lick of sense in reality; but works in a hardcore B-movie with a willing suspension of disbelief.

A Monster in a New Suit

Paul Schrader, known for penning Martin Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, has always reveled in dark characters. Neto’s exploits are par for the course. There Are No Saints refers to Julio’s misplaced judgment of his father. The Jesuit is a monster in a new suit. Schrader’s biggest screenplay failure is not making his lead smarter. Neto barges into dangerous situations that warrant surveillance and stealth. There’s little thought to a man who’s mercilessly efficient in extracting information.

There Are No Saints has a punishing final act. It’s indicative of the film’s see-saw approach. Plot issues are counterbalanced by powerful scenes. Schrader takes the gloves off with vicious cruelty and profane dialogue. The film is loaded with racial and religious slurs. There Are No Saints caters to a specific audience not easily offended. It gets a recommendation for hitting hard on every front.

There Are No Saints is a production of BN Films, Itaca Films, Latam Pictures, and Open Window Productions. It will have a concurrent VOD and limited theatrical release on May 27th from Saban Films.


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