I have been a big fan of Steve Buscemi for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed the oddball characters that he plays like in Fargo. When I read that he had a new movie, Saint John of Las Vegas, coming out, I was pretty excited. After watching it, my excitement turned to disappointment.
SJoLV is written and directed by newcomer Hue Rhodes, who very loosely based his story on the classic poem Dante’s Inferno. While Hue Rhodes shows true ambition in his first full length movie, his hard work does not pay off.
John (Buscemi) is a gambling addict that describes himself as being a successful gambler in Las Vegas until his luck ran out. Now, he lives in Albuquerque where he works as a claims adjuster for a car insurance company. Even though John is out of the bright lights of Sin City, he still plays scratch offs every chance he gets.
When John approaches his boss, Mr. Townsend (Peter Dinklage, Death at a Funeral), for a raise, he gets transferred to the fraud department. His new partner is Virgil (Romany Malco, The Love Guru), the company’s top fraud investigator.
John and Virgil set out on a new case that takes them to Las Vegas. Even though John is very hesitant to go, he does because he is trying to turn his life around and be more responsible.
John wants to change because he has a new girlfriend, Jill (Sarah Silverman), that he wants to have a serious relationship with.
During the investigation, John learns that there is a bigger scam taking place than even he can imagine.
Steve Buscemi does the best he can with a script that is not that funny. Peter Dinklage’s comedic talents are totally wasted except for one short scene. Dinklage was hilarious in Death at a Funeral. Some people think Sarah Silverman is funny. I don’t. I think Romany Malco may have watched Sam Jackson in Shaft one too many times, because his performance almost seems like a carbon copy. This remark is not meant to be a complement either.
Hue Rhodes tries to make SJoLV into a funny road trip movie, but there are no laughs. John and Virgil meet many wacky characters, like a naked naturalist, a carnival sideshow act that is stuck in his flame suit and a Dirty Harry wannabe park ranger during their investigation, but none of them are that funny.
With not much to laugh at, SJoLV turns out to be rather dull. Thankfully, the runtime is only 85 minutes. With the involvement of two highly accomplished men like Spike Lee and Stanley Tucci as executive producers, you’d think they would have offered some input that would have made this a much better movie, but I guess not.
When the scam is revealed at the end, it helps a little bit, but not enough to make up for the lack of laughs and squandering of talented actors like Buscemi and Dinklage.
While Saint John of Las Vegas was a total let down, I’m still a big fan of Steve Buscemi. Everybody has a bad day sometimes, right?
Saint John of Las Vegas is now available on DVD.