[CAVEAT: Review Contains Spoilers]
In my ignorance back in '97, I immediately splurged on what I believed was the actual film score of The Saint after viewing the film. To this day, I still have the vivid memory of sitting in the car with the CD and case in my lap, pouring over the liner notes of the soundtrack in hopes of finding a single track with music from the score. "Immense disappointment" is an understatement. While I came to appreciate the compilation of songs over the years, I still longed for an isolated score whenever a another viewing of the movie was required for my cheap action flick fix. (Bad movies are watched only for the "good" parts.) Unbeknownst to my former self was the fact that the score album was not released until months later, after I had given up on locating it. Words alone cannot express my thrill upon obtaining this score... finally.
A perfect match for the material, The Saint is one of Graeme Revell's more romantic works since the love element is what actually keeps the film alive. None of the James Bondish/Roger Moore, tongue-in-cheek elegance is in the film since Val Kilmer portrays the wily Saint, Simon Templar, as a brooding, self-involved loner. Instead of giving audiences the pulp and badinage of Leslie Charteris's incorrigible rogue - and also never crediting the creator of the Saint - the director and screenwriters forgo sly wit to offer plenty of cheerless fodder. The only real sophistication can be found within this Philip Noyce action romance are the quick changes of disguise and use of specialty gadgets ("toys").
A pedestrian plot, bland dialogue, pseudo-exciting action sequences, and stereotypical Cold War baddies... just when it seems that there is hopelessly little to laud or like, there is Elisabeth Shue. The actress tries in earnest to salvage the film through an implausible and haplessly cliché role; as the beautiful Dr. Emma Russell, she is a meek, but brilliant physicist desperate for love. A small bundle minor idiosyncrasies, her character hides the potential formula for cold fusion—read: her life's work and key to Russia's energy crisis—in her bra and is burdened with a heart condition and all that it entails for the convenience of boosting suspense. Val Kilmer's Saint is haunted by the memory of a childhood trauma involving an antic that resulted in the accidental death of a girl he loved; so to heighten the drama, history begins to repeat itself when he, a mercenary thief, is hired by the Russian politico-mafia to steal Emma's formula. Despite the maudlin cheese of this setup, Revell is given the opportunity to play up the romance factor if only to give the forced relationship some credence.
By sensual rhythmic percussion, French horns, strings, or woodwinds, the original theme from The Saint appears whenever Simon Templar succeeds in eluding the bad guys or extricates himself from an impossible mess. Although drums and percussion augment the action scenes, Revell readily combines the full orchestra with synthesisers and utilises the choir to great effect. A choir boy often illustrates private moments or the sanctity of love, while the full chorus bolsters the intensity of perils and the scale of the set-pieces, e.g. 'Race to the Embassy' or 'Kremlin Riot' when a repressed and suffering people rally for their leader.
Elisabeth Shue gives the most sincere and passionate performance with such a limited role and thus, comes across as a genuinely sympathetic character. Because of her, the first and perhaps last thing listeners will remember is the love theme; showing up in five prominent tracks (two of them album bookends), it takes up about a third of the score. The appearance of this theme instills in the calmer scenes – and Kilmer's aloof acting - a sense of humanity and hope. And when the on-screen emotions are combined with the lush orchestral passages and solo piano, the effect is simply exquisite. Those familiar with John Barry's Bond title song, You Only Live Twice, will recognise the love theme's similar opening. Whether or not Revell's use of this motif was intentional, it stands out as an allusive quasi-homage to the Saint/Bond tie, i.e. Roger Moore, all the while depicting the fragility of a tentative love. The last track on the CD is a wonderfully lavish version of the theme featuring the choir boy, jazzy piano, and synths leading into flowing orchestral segments. It's a liberating, confident piece that consummates the love and acts as a segue to the only truly lighthearted scene in the entire movie.
Of the fourteen pieces, the album also includes two cues that differ from those used in the film: 'Break-In' and 'Love Theme (2nd Version)'. The latter is very significant in that prior to the movie's release, Noyce pre-tested audiences with a version that killed off Shue's character. Only after the preview - when viewers vehemently protested Emma's demise, did the director re-shoot and change the entire ending. Judging by the gentle and thoroughly heart-wrenching nature of the omitted love theme, it is probably safe to assume that it was used in the death scene. The Saint's emotional core lies in the metaphorical and literal heart of Shue's character - and even Revell seemed to know this! Had the ending been devoid of love, the utter lack of compassion would have ruined the movie, but listeners should keep in mind that it may have abetted the creation of a truly touching piece.
This underrated score is a testament to Revell's range and intelligence as a composer when it comes to balancing films with music. Fans of The Crow who yearned for more of Revell's poignant cues can also find them on this satisfying gem. The Saint is a hard to find, but worthy album to add to any film music collection.