Indie Vest Pictures

Saint John of Las Vegas

Saint John of Las Vegas

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A tone-deaf odyssey of personal discovery striving to echo Dante’s Inferno, Saint John of Las Vegas casts Steve Buscemi as the oddest ball in a world overrun by nothing but. After an intro in which John buys $1,000 worth of lottery tickets at a Vegas gas station (this despite the fact that the state has no lotto), Hue Rhodes’s film flashes back a few days to detail former Sin City loser John shuffling through a monotonous daily grind as an insurance claims adjuster in Albuquerque, New Mexico. John’s busty cubicle neighbor Jill (Sarah Silverman) loves smiley faces and his boss Mr. Townsend (Peter Dinklage) is a nut who, when approached by John for a raise, instead sends him to the outskirts of Vegas with intimidating investigator Virgil (Romany Malco) to prove that a lucrative claim made by a stripper is fraud.

From a close-up of John checking his teeth in a bathroom mirror that grotesquely accentuates Buscemi’s features, to a series of later encounters with a wheelchair-bound stripper, a carnival worker trapped in a suit that continually bursts into flames, and a group of nude cowboys, Rhodes’s debut works hard for surrealism. Despite such transparent effort, however, the filmmaker’s religious-tinged bizarreness proves limply conceived and staged, hitting rock bottom during a denouement involving a scrap yard run by a gray-haired, nattily dressed gentleman named Lou Cifer.

With his slouched, gangly frame and air of two-bit weasel desperation, Buscemi is a natural fit for awkward gambling junkie John. Yet since character development takes a backseat to off-kilter vignettes and recurring church-themed dream sequences doused in blooming whites, the protagonist’s carpe diem awakening plays like a superfluous addendum. John is a cipher striking a variety of choreographed poses, which is also true of the usually biting Silverman, here reduced to a preposterous, cardboard-cutout love interest defined by cleavage, fingernail polish, and an erotic affinity for having her hair pulled. Squandering its leads, stumbling in its attempts to evoke seedy Vegas-fringe eccentricity, and deluged by indie-quirky affectations, Saint John approximates hell with a fidelity it surely didn’t intend.

Indie Vest Pictures
85 min
Hue Rhodes
Hue Rhodes
Steve Buscemi, Romany Malco, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage, Tim Blake Nelson, John Cho, Jesse Garcia, Emmanuelle Chriqui

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