Saint John of Las Vegas
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From producers Spike Lee and Stanley Tucci comes the hilarious comedy about an ex-gambler who is lured back into the game by a veteran insurance-fraud investigator.
Just as O Brother, Where Art Thou? relocated Homer's Odyssey to the Deep South, first-time filmmaker Hue Rhodes tries something similar with Dante's Inferno. After things go rotten in Vegas, John Alighieri (Steve Buscemi), a slick-haired gambler, takes a job as an insurance claims adjuster in Albuquerque. When we meet him, he's kissed the cards and the dice goodbye, but he still can't resist the lure of a lottery scratch ticket. Consequently, John's finances remain rocky until his tightfisted boss, Mr. Townsend (Peter Dinklage, unctuous), offers him the opportunity to join the fraud squad. John and Virgil (The 40-Year-Old Virgin's Romany Malco) just have to prove that Vegas stripper Tasty D. Lite (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is faking her injuries. Before they leave, John hits on smiley face-obsessed cubicle mate Jill (Sarah Silverman, miscast as a minx), who proves surprisingly receptive to his advances. If Townsend is a piece of work, the alternately stone-faced and bitingly critical Virgil represents even more of a challenge. As John and Virgil travel through virtual Circles of Hell, they encounter the likes of Ned, a nude militiaman (O Brother's Tim Blake Nelson); Smitty, a human torch with a faulty suit (John Cho, face hidden); and finally "Lucypher" himself. Like the Coen Brothers film, Saint John works as more of a riff on a literary classic than a full-on reinterpretation. If the sun-blasted black comedy is rarely as black or as comic as intended, Buscemi remains good value throughout, especially in his quasi-surrealistic scenes with Malco. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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