THE SAINT. Motion Picture Corporation of America/Netflix, 2017. Adam Rayner as Simon Templar, Eliza Dushku as Patricia Holm, Sir Roger Moore as Jasper, James Remar as Arnold Valecross, Ian Ogilvy as The Fixer/older Xander, Adam Woodward as Xander, Enrique Murciano as Inspector John Henry Fernack. Based on the characters created by Leslie Charteris.  Director: Ernie Barbarash.

   A few years back saw the return of a character who had once been famous worldwide. Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint, was followed by many in film, television, radio, comic strips and books. First and foremost a literary character, he featured in fifty books between 1928 and 1983. The Saint was a suave, witty, ruthless adventurer, known as ‘the Robin Hood of Modern Crime’ for his tendency to rob from the wealthy corrupt and help those who needed it most.

   He is best known today for the television series starring Roger Moore, which aired 118 episodes between 1962 and 1969. It was a global hit, turned Moore into British television’s first millionaire, saw him mobbed wherever he went in the world, and won him the role of James Bond.

   Return of the Saint, with Ian Ogilvy, followed ten years later, but was a short-lived success. Since then, the most high-profile attempt to revive the character was a 1997 blockbuster movie starring Val Kilmer. It was an unwatchable mess, flopped hard and Kilmer’s career never fully recovered.

   There was nothing more until a television pilot was filmed in 2013 with Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku. It wasn’t picked up for a series and the pilot remained on the shelf for four years. Now, it has been dusted down and reassembled as a full-length film for a digital release, with more than forty minutes of new footage and a beefed-up story. The short shooting schedule did not allow for the return of the pilot’s director, Simon West, so Ernie Barbarash was enlisted instead, while no less than twenty producers are credited.

   So, was it worth waiting twenty years for a new Saint adventure? Well, Rayner is excellent as Simon Templar. He has the sense of impish fun that the character should always possess. Dushku plays Templar’s (sort of) girlfriend Patricia Holm, who featured in many of the early stories but hasn’t been seen onscreen since 1943. This version of the character is high-kicking, tech-savvy and knows her way around a gun.

   Cannily, the antagonist of the story is played by Return of the Saint’s Ian Ogilvy, who gets much screen time as a mysterious and callous manipulator of international affairs. The plot sees him and his right-hand man, Arnie Valecross, steal $2.5 billion intended to help a third world country. Valecross, however, suffers a crisis of conscience and diverts the funds. In response, his daughter is kidnapped with the threat that she will be killed in two days unless the money is returned.

   Valecross enlists The Saint, who plans to get the money, retrieve the girl and double-cross the kidnappers. Meanwhile, the FBI and LAPD are on his trail. Things get even more intense when his girlfriend Patricia is captured too.

   This could have been an awkward salvage operation but, happily, the additional material synchronises smoothly with the pilot footage. The only way to discern between the 2013 and 2017 material is Adam Rayner’s beard. He was contractually obliged to keep it between seasons of the FX series Tyrant and retains it for the first half hour of the film (in other words, much of the new stuff). Fortunately, it does not hamper things and it could even be said that the character needs to change his look at times to avoid being recognised. It all works, therefore, as a legitimate television movie.

   The script is surprisingly funny and there is some decent action too, although it could never be mistaken for a theatrical release. Fans of the 1970s series will particularly enjoy seeing Ogilvy again, while genre favourite Greg Grunberg has a minor role. There are numerous flashbacks to Templar’s childhood which seek to establish the character’s backstory, although there’s very little point when this is strictly a one-off.

   The plot itself is convoluted and not distinct enough from other cyber-theft stories. Indeed, the project’s lack of distinction is perhaps its problem. Although many of the Saint stories were set in America, placing a potential series there makes it indistinguishable from White Collar, Leverage, Burn Notice, MacGyver and other G-man series of recent years.

   The Saint property was once in the lead – a champion, if not a trail-blazer – while here it looks like it is simply trying to merge in with the crowd. Nonetheless, despite being unoriginal and unmemorable, this is a fun, undemanding 116 minutes which is worth seeing.