Saint John of Las Vegas
There’s something different about Mr. Pink …

Theatrical Release Date: 02/05/2010
Director: Hue Rhodes
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Romany Malco, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage, Tim Blake Nelson, John Cho, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Aviva, Danny Trejo

Hitting select theaters over the course of these next few weeks (LA and NY as of Feb. 5th, San Diego and others this Friday, and probably more after that), “Saint John of Las Vegas” is the tale of a self professed unlucky man (Steve Buscemi) looking to move up the corporate ladder at a car insurance company in New Mexico.

Buscemi’s character fled Las Vegas, as being unlucky in that town usually has dire consequences (fiscal and otherwise), and is hoping his luck will change in a new setting. Not only is he trying to move up professionally, there’s also the matter of Sarah Silverman sitting in the next cubicle, whose happy face fetish doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

The chance to make something more of himself at the insurance agency comes when the boss (Peter Dinklage) assigns Buscemi to an experienced fraud investigator (Romany Malco). Together, they look into the case of a stripper (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who claims to have suffered severe injuries in a rear end collision. Along the way, bizarre characters and situations unfold (including a possibly hard to spot cameo by John Cho and easier ones to enjoy by the likes of Danny Trejo and Tim Blake Nelson).

Where the film excels is in its character work. Writer/director Hue Rhodes (basing the screenplay on Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy”) relies on a clever script and excellent casting to make people allegories a la that great Italian epic poem. Nearly everything is a metaphor for something else, as our hero (renamed John rather than Dante) attempts to ascend through levels of personal purgatory.

You can read into those elements or you can just enjoy the ride, as Buscemi, Malco, Dinklage and the others simply relish their character’s instincts and actions. It’s clear to see that they all enjoyed playing off of one another and layering the film with a tapestry of peccadilloes and depravity. Everyone adds a little bit to the mix and the end result is a surprisingly smart comedy.

The main character goes from pathetic schlub to slightly less pathetic schlub with a semblance of a backbone, but always in a lovable way that endears him to the audience. Few actors can pull that off better than Buscemi. He perfectly plays off of the other actors and if you consider yourself a Buscemiac, this is one not to miss.

There’s an irreverence and quirkiness to the whole project that will hit some in just the right way, as it did myself, and so I’ll give “Saint John of Las Vegas” a 3.5 out of 5. However, I recommend checking out the trailer first because with comedy, it’s always so subjective and while you should always take my opinion as law, I’m not offended if you break it now and again.