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Delivering a better showcase for himself as an actor than a filmmaker, Martin Papazian is less than a triple threat as the director, writer and star of the overwrought Least Among Saints. Although displaying a commandingly brooding screen presence reminiscent of Jason Patric, he’s unable to rescue this melodrama–about a PTSD-afflicted Gulf War veteran who finds redemption by caring for a troubled young boy–from sinking into a morass of clichés.
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Returning home to Tuscon, Arizona after his tours of duty, Anthony (Papazian) has become an embittered drunk, haunted by nightmares and desperately attempting to reconnect with his ex-wife (Audrey Marie Anderson) who’s gotten a restraining order against him. But his essential decency comes to the fore when his next-door neighbor, a drug-addicted prostitute (A.J. Cook), suddenly dies of an overdose, leaving behind a frightened and bereft ten-year-old son, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu).
Anthony impulsively takes the young boy under his wing, despite the understandable reservations of a sardonic social worker (well played by Laura San Giacomo) who’s apparently too busy to do the basic research that would reveal that the veteran has more than a few legal issues pending. It isn’t long before he’s tutoring the youngster in such budding acts of manhood as physically confronting a school bully and firing a shotgun, with predictably messy results. But it’s when the pair embarks on a road trip to find Wade’s long-absent father that things really get complicated.
Delivering its inspirational messages with a heavy hand—at one point we hear a lecture about the myriad problems facing war veterans delivered by a sympathetic cop (Charles S. Dutton)—Least Among Saints has the strained feel of a basic cable television movie, with modest production values to match.
It all culminates in a predictable if less than credible feel-good conclusion that would go down easier if it wasn’t obvious that the main character has behaved in a manner that should have earned him serious jail time.
Production: Papazian Hirsch Entertainment.
Cast: Martin Papazian, Tristan Lake Leabu, Laura San Giacomo, Charles S. Dutton, Audrey Marie Anderson, A.J. Cook, Azura Skye, Tom Irwin, Taylor Kinney, Lombardo Boyer, Ronnie Gene Blevins.
Director-Screenwriter: Martin Papazian.
Producers: Robert A. Papazian, James G. Hirsch.
Director of photography: Guy Skinner.
Editor: Robert Florio.
Production designer: Peter Wooley.
Costume designer: Jennifer Wolff.
Composer: Gary Lionelli.
Rated R, 105 min.
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