The Saint of Fort Washington Review

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Matthew (Dillon) is kicked out in the street but it's not long before he meets an Vietnam veteran, (Glover) in a similar situation. The two bond over their very different lives and soon the old man has taught Mathew how to survive on the streets while trying to make a living.


The sort of worthy project big- name stars tackle to earn artistic and social Brownie points between megabuck sequels, this toplines Matt Dillon as Matthew, a schizophrenic drop-out who takes photographs without putting film in his camera. Thrown on to the streets when his flophouse is demolished, he is befriended by Jerry (Glover), a down-and-out Vietnam veteran, at the Fort Washington Armoury, a huge refuge where the homeless are terrorised by predators. Matthew seems to have healing hands and is dubbed "a saint" by Jerry, who shows the younger man how to survive by washing cars and staying away from the bad guys, all the while dreaming of the idyllic future they can share if they manage to get an address.

Despite its superficially realistic look into the lives of the urban dispossessed of the 90s, this is an idealised throwback to 30s social dramas. The two wounded and abused heroes form an interdependence which helps each to regenerate in his own way: Matthew begins using real film and forms proper relationships in the homeless community, while Jerry almost gets serious about cleaning himself up.

Despite its darkly downbeat finish, the film is still oddly prettified. Dillon looks more like a pin-up than a street person, and Jerry's pain-killers are the heaviest drugs on view. All the violence is perpetrated by two cartoon bad guys, and every other homeless person is a saintly, folksy caricature. Tim Hunter directed River's Edge, one of the most authentically tough and despairing films of the 80s, but here he keeps fumbling into a soft centre.

The problem with this film is that it has Disney-fied 'homelessness' so much that it becomes unrealistically glossy. Although both Dillon and Glover put in powerful performances, the subject matter just loses any of its threat as we see Dillon looking poster-boy perfect in every shot.