In the latest from director William Kaufman (whose 2011 Cuba Gooding Jr. vehicle, “The Hit List,” currently floats in the $5 DVD bargain bin at Walmart), authorities are after whomever keeps igniting various members of the criminal underbelly, turning them into extra-crispy meat. And everybody — and I mean everybody — carries automatic weapons, because a shootout is as commonplace as a bowl of gumbo.
Johnny Strong (“The Fast and the Furious”) and Kevin Phillips (“Notorious”) reluctantly pair up to bring down the bad guy, played by a puffy Costas Mandylor (“Saw 3D“). Rapper Method Man essays the role of a grudge carrier with burn blisters covering half his face — “Bring the Pain” indeed!
While Phillips acquits himself OK, Strong is irritating in his first starring role. Coming off like the poor man’s Desmond Harrington, Strong looks like he just fell out of bed, and conveys the attitude that he’s too cool to shave or smile. That may be the intent for the character, but Strong lets that ‘tude serve as a performance: “I don’t believe in miracles. I’m not a saint, bro.”
Nor is the movie, so hollow in story it also lacks a soul. Kaufman makes things as gritty and slick as he can, but ignores interest in the interim. “Sinners and Saints” wants to be as potent and alive as “Training Day,” but creatively, it’s nowhere near ready to play with the big boys. Call it “Training Pants” for now. —Rod Lott