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Saint John of Las Vegas

Lost in the Shuffle

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Saint John of Las Vegas is one man’s journey to hell and back, quite literally. It’s based on Dante’s Inferno, only in this version Las Vegas is hell. A clichéd notion, but it’s pulled off semi-cleverly here. It’s a story of temptation and redemption, a tale of good vs. evil. Yet this isn’t that philosophical a film. No, it’s just about one ordinary guy fighting for a new life. It’s amusing but unnecessary.

John (Steve Buscemi) is a recovering gambler who’s cursed with bad luck. He’s recently relocated to New Mexico and works for a car insurance company. His life is static, and his only joy comes in the form of scratch cards he impulsively buys at gas stations.

However, that all changes when he’s pulled on a fraud claim by his boss Mr. Townsend (the always-amazing Peter Dinklage). He’s placed under the wing of the seasoned Virgil (Romany Malco), who’s oddly silent through most of their adventure. The trip will also bring them to John’s past, a past he’s trying to forget — Las Vegas.

It’s a road trip of sorts and the audience is left as much in the dark as John is. Like him, we’re just along for the ride, figuring it all out as it happens. As he investigates the claims of stripper Tasty D Lite (Emmanuelle Chriqui), he’s also juggling a burgeoning relationship with co-worker and the smiley faced obsessed Jill (Sarah Silverman), who he slept with minutes before his departure, yet her phone calls all end with a cheery “I love you.”

Along the way John meets a cast of characters and is constantly questioning what’s happening around him, all while trying to avoid the burning lure of Vegas that’s just over the horizon. It’s a quirky film — one that has its fair share of amusing anecdotes and scenes — and anything with Steve Buscemi in the lead should garner a viewing. But as wonderful as he is, he just seems to glide through this film never really stamping his personality onto the final product. It’s worth a peek just for the talent involved, but the film will pale upon further reflection.