Never having heard of "Sinners and Saints," I can honestly say that my expectations were appropriately grounded. Perhaps that's why the film came as such a pleasant surprise. It's certainly not the best, most professional, or most original movie that you'll see this year--but it works and that's the most important thing. It aims to be exciting and entertaining, and it succeeds at those modest goals without being insultingly idiotic! That's where so many straight-to-DVD endeavors go wrong, they oftentimes miss the point of having a coherent and reasonable screenplay. "Sinners and Saints" is an old school police actioner that has a satisfyingly high body count, a twisty narrative, and likable protagonists. It has plenty of shoot-outs, some gleefully unpleasant torture scenes, and plenty of fisticuffs tied together by an interesting story set in the dilapidated venues of post-Katrina New Orleans.
When a series of grisly murders attract the attention of the NOPD brass, a hot-headed but street smart cop (Johnny Strong) is assigned to help the homicide detectives. The deaths appear to be linked to a powerful criminal enterprise, and Strong may have unexpected ties to the murders. His childhood friend (Sean Patrick Flanery) seems to be neck deep in the trouble. The cops spend most of the film trying to track down Flanery to discover just what is motivating this killing spree. Along the way, they become a target themselves and many scenes just end with a ridiculous amount of gunfire. The actual motives really don't matter that much, they just serve as a catalyst to initiate the violence and mayhem. And the action sequences are orchestrated with precision with a good mix of excitement, danger, and over-the-top fun.
The movie certainly has its flaws and moments that strain credulity, but I liked it well enough to just go with the flow. Perhaps the biggest plot oversight involves the power player behind the criminal enterprise played by Jurgen Prochnow. The film ends with his story dangling in the wind, unresolved, and never to be mentioned again. I did love the endless supply of machine gun toting henchman that were available throughout the picture, the fact that the ending confrontation didn't arouse the interest of police or any passing cars, and the fact that a major character just showed up randomly at the same confrontation. But despite the expected silliness, the film still kept me involved. I give most of that credit to its lead actor, Johnny Strong. I'm not familiar with Strong, but if this is any indication--I expect I might be seeing him again. Credible as both an action star and in moments that required more character complexity, this guy should have a career. "Sinners and Saints," at the end of the day, may not necessarily be a great movie but it is an effective and enjoyable one. It has relatively modest ambitions, and it succeeds at being the movie that it wants to be. KGHarris, 12/11.