Chock-full of gyrating go-go dancers and bopping surf-guitar music, “Pale Saints” takes the Tarantino crime pic and adds a curious 1960s sheen. It’s a pastiche of “Pulp Fiction,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” and the hip, violent offering will look overly familiar to most audiences. The Norstar film may appeal to overseas buyers, but it seems destined to fade to pale quickly in theaters.
The only original twist here is the retro style, but writer-director Joel Wyner never succeeds in making it clear why this contempo film features characters and sets that appear to be stuck in swinging London circa 1966.
Small-time hoods Louis (Sean Patrick Flanery) and his unhinged buddy Dody (Michael Riley) show up at Quick Vic’s hoping to snare a job, only to learn that Vic has already given the illegal assignment to his cousin Pete. Louis and Dody decide to do the job anyway, seeing as they’re driving around in a hot rod with Pete’s dead body in the trunk.
They zoom to Toronto from Montreal and nab the gig, with Louis pretending to be Pete. Ridiculously convoluted plot goes into silly overdrive at this point, with Whitey (Saul Rubinek) hiring Louis and Dody to double-cross psychotic, one-armed crime kingpin the Pirate (Maury Chaykin). Along the way, they look up their old pal Gus (Gordon Pinsent), who has been a key player in many of their previous capers.
The violence is cranked up considerably along the way via a botched robbery of a local grocery store and the requisite Russian roulette/snuff-film sequence. By the midway point, it’s near impossible to figure out what’s going on. While the same might be said of “The Usual Suspects,” “Pale Saints” unfortunately lacks that film’s charming quirkiness. Wyner shows an impressive knack for choreographing fast-paced action and cool visuals, but the plot has more holes than a hunk of Swiss cheese.
Flanery is captivating as Louis, but, again, it’s not clear why he sports turtlenecks, Beatle-boots and other vestiges of mid-’60s Brit mod culture. Rubinek is also good as weaselly con man Whitey, and Rachael Crawford is her usual sultry self as Valdine/Chicklet, though her character is fairly undeveloped. Chaykin is way too over-the-top as the maniacal crime boss.
Barry Stone’s lensing gives the exercise an ultra-hip look, and soundtrack is full-out retro fare, with surf guitar riffs and swinging Tijuana Brass-style numbers.