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'Least Among Saints' has a lot of heart -- and way too much melodrama

Posted 3:15pm on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012

R (obscenity, violence, brief sexually suggestive dialogue); 109 minutes.

Least Among Saints hits all the notes you'd expect for a film -- or at least a clichéd one -- about a traumatized Iraq War veteran. Its hero, Anthony, played by writer-director Martin Papazian with more earnestness than subtlety, is a divorced, unemployed, suicidal alcoholic with nightmares, impulse-control issues, and the shakes.

Still, he's not a bad guy at heart.

We discover this when Anthony -- who up until then has seemed barely capable of taking care of his dog -- more or less inherits the troubled 10-year-old boy living next door, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu), after the kid's single mom (A.J. Cook) dies of a drug overdose.

It's all a wee bit much.

Still, Papazian and Leabu have a genuine ease with each other, which shows in their characters' friendship. The development of the relationship between these two broken individuals -- not quite peers, not quite father-and-son -- is enjoyable to watch. OK, maybe not enjoyable, but sweetly, convincingly cracked. But Papazian smothers it with yet another helping of melodrama. The film just keeps ladling on the sauce when the dish is savory enough.

The mawkishness is likely to produce more consternation than closure. Least Among Saints has a good thing going, but it doesn't know when to leave well enough alone.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

-- Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post

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