Rated R for Some Language and Nudity
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Romany Malco, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage
Written by: Hue Rhodes (inspired/adapted from “Dante’s Inferno”)
Directed by: Hue Rhodes
Run-time: 85 minutes
I feel confident in saying that I’m probably the only person who got really excited to see Saint John of Las Vegas because of Steve Buscemi and Peter Dinklage, and I definitely am not embarrassed to admit it. However, when it was given its small release in theaters, it never came close to here, so once again Netflix had to make the save and fill in the gap. And you know what? Despite its short running time and moments that didn’t make sense (or went completely over my head, you can never tell), Saint John of Las Vegas was an enjoyable watch, especially due to the excellent cast.
Steve Buscemi stars as John, a reformed gambler who left Las Vegas (and his old ways) for the bright lights of, erm, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Trading in the poker tables for a run of the mill job in the claims department of an insurance company, John fights his demons by way of scratch tickets. One day, his boss Mr. Townshend (Peter Dinklage) offers to help John move up in the company. His assignment? Accompany moody claims adjuster Virgil (Romany Malco) to investigate a totaled car claim on the outskirts of, you guessed it, Las Vegas. If John completes this job, he will receive a promotion, so he goes full force into it, trading barbs with Virgil and coming across a host of weird characters, from a wheelchair bound stripper to a nudist colony of rednecks who hate cars but worship the second amendment.
Saint John of Las Vegas belongs to Steve Buscemi; his character of John is the only one that is remotely fleshed out and Buscemi plays him brilliantly and hilariously. It’s been awhile since I have seen him act, and after watching this, I’m glad he finally got to take top billing in something that wasn’t Ed and His Dead Mother. Romany Malco, as the mysteriously quiet and tempermental Virgil, also does great work and he and Buscemi have great chemistry together. Dinklage gives another good, if a bit small, performance. The scene in his office when he gives the assignment was the funniest moment of the movie for me and I wished he had been in it more; seriously, dwarfism or not, the man can act.
The movie is filled with excellent characters; there’s Jill (Sarah Silverman), John’s co-worker who is obsessed with yellow happy faces; a carnival worker who is stuck in his fire costume and can’t get out because it constantly goes off; the aformentioned nudists which are headed up by an hilarious appearance by Tim Blake Nelson. Although you never get to know these characters, their few moments on screen are excellent, even from Silverman, who I’ve never claimed to like (and still won’t).
With it being so short, it’s sad that Saint John of Las Vegas moves so quick from scene to scene. I wanted more from the side characters and I wanted more between John and Virgil. The movie can also get a bit too indie quirky (as good as Silverman was here, that yellow smiley face quirk was beaten over my head numerous times), but it’s well-written and manages to coast on the talents of its cast. This should go down as one of Buscemi’s finest roles, and anyone who’s a fan of his work should check this out.