The most fascinating about Saigon is the remarkable ease with which the Vietnam War milieu is transformed into a modern film noir setting. The atmosphere of military occupation, prostitution, a corrupt and conspiratorial hierarchy among the US forces, racial tension, and in the background a Catholic Church that has had to blur its rules to cope with the destitution, makes for something original and compulsive. There is the fascinating sense of a detective story taking place where the detectives are not just chasing the truth but trying to impose sanity and normal rules on a world gone crazy. The downside of this is that it is a case of the setting being far more interesting than the plot, whose twists and turns are never as captivating as the atmosphere the film arrays around it.
Willem Dafoe is never what one might call an audience-friendly actor and comes over as too harsh when required to fill the part of a heroic leading man something that is just not his forte. Amanda Pays, who puts on a thoroughly unconvincing French accent, fails completely to convince in her role as a nun. The best performances in the film however come in the supporting cast. As the commanding officer, Fred Ward gives his role a dangerous cocky arrogance that makes for a chillingly believable end. Especially good is Scott Glenn, who goes right over the edge in the films singularly most startling scene as a colonel discovered with a prostitute in the midst of an S&M scene involving US military uniforms and a pistol, who then abducts Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines after catching them spying and takes them up in a helicopter and jumps out, saying that whether he will fly or not will be the proof of his innocence.
Saigon/Off Limits was the feature-film directorial debut of Christopher Crowe who has worked as a producer/writer principally in television where he has racked up a number of other genre credits. Crowes other films as a director were the tv movie Steel Justice (1992) in which a man gains the ability to bring a giant dinosaur toy to life and the fine psychotherapy thriller Whispers in the Dark (1992). Christopher Crowe has also produced the tv anthology series Darkroom (1981); produced/written Nightmares (1983), a horror anthology tv pilot that ended up being theatrically released; produced the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985-9); created the tv series B.L. Stryker (1989-90); written the screenplay for Michael Manns The Last of the Mohicans (1992); created the short-lived horror anthology series The Watcher (1995); written the script for the boyfriend stalker film Fear (1996); and created/produced the time travel series Seven Days (1998-2001).