Friday, May 27, 2022

There are No Saints, Written by Paul Schrader

The Jesuits aren’t what they used to be. These days, they are largely aligned with Liberation Theology. Neto Niente’s nickname “The Jesuit” refers to their hard-charging Seventeenth Century glory years. The gang enforcer could definitely get Medieval on his targets, but he has been cooling his heels in prison for years. When he finally gets released, there’s sure to be Hell to pay in Alfonso Pined Ulloa’s There are No Saints, written by Paul Schrader, which opens today in New York.

Ironically, Niente did not commit the murder he was convicted of, so when the cop who planted the evidence recanted on his deathbed, his lawyer, Carl Abrahams had him released, free and clear. Of course, there are plenty of angry cops who still want a piece of him. Niente would clear out, but he is worried about his son, Julio. His wife Nadia has since married gun-running gangster Vincent Rice, to help provide him a respectable cover. Even though it is not a real marriage, Rice is still abusive—and lethally jealous when Nadia and the Jesuit have an assignation for old times’ sake.

After Rice murders Nadia, abducts Julio, and tries to kill Niente, but the Jesuit is more resourceful than he anticipates. As we fully expect, Niente will chase Rice down into Mexico, leaving a trail of dead associates in his wake. However, Schrader’s grungy payback script is darker than you would expect. Arguably, this is a familiar template for him. Basically, he does for the border town milieu what
Hardcore did for the underground LA porn scene and The Yakuza did for the Japanese underworld. Yet, it still works okay, in an unfussy, down-and-dirty kind of way.

Miraculously, Jose Maria Yazpik, who was such a sad nothing in
Now & Then is impressively gritty, seething with all sorts of intensity as The Jesuit. However, the supporting cast is what distinguishes the film. Tim Roth brings a blast of mordant humor to all his scenes as Abrahams. There is also a dream team of VOD villains, including Ron Perlman and Tommy (not the musician) Flanagan, but Neal McDonough outshines them all as the nasty Rice. Plus, Shannyn Sossamon is a crazy but mostly interesting mess, as Inez, the stripper who teams up with The Jesuit.

Like the Jesuit, this film isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done. Schrader probably intended to have the religious themes and motifs more in the foreground, btu at least you accuse Ulloa of excessive pretention. Recommended for fans of payback exploitation,
There are No Saints opens tody (5/27) in New York, at the Cinema Village.