I can't speak for Saint's Row 1, but 2 is... well, if you've followed the GTA series in their move to the 3D world (GTA 3, Vice City, San Andreas, 4, etc) you know that the 3 series started moderately realistic and started ramping up into wackier and wackier stuff (Jetpacks? In MY GTA?) with roleplaying elements (because seriously, San Andreas had a lot more roleplaying depth and stat building than most RPGs. The fuck's up with that?) before crashing back into Serious Von Serioustown in 4.
Saint's Row 2 says "San Andreas, you didn't go too far too enough far enough farness!... yeah!" and then sets itself on fire, jumps out a window and shoots someone in the face. Because. It's not a smart game* in that you play an violent idiot who surrounds yourself with violent idiots, and you're all hilarious and violent. Except for one mission in the Brotherhood line. That one was serious. Possibly others, as I've yet to play through them. But yeah, it's a violent world that fully embraces that it's a violent horrible place, and because of that it becomes a fun violent world, only a half-step away from a Loony Tunes cartoon, if Loony Tunes involved decapitations and drug use.
*Well, it's a stupid game written by smart people? Something like that. Example being, your sidekick Pierce suggests this huge, elaborate plan (Complete with a model and little figurines) for taking the cash from a casino similar to the Oceans 1X movies or the Casino Heist in GTA:SA. Your main pal Johnny says "We could do that.... Orrrr... we could just walk in and shoot everyone, then take the money." to which you reply something like "I like that. Good plan, Pierce!" and you set out to enact Johnny's plan. Stupid, thuggish hilarious people.
Also, the Voice Acting credits are basically a list of "Hey! It's that voice!" Micheal Dorn (You know, Worf, Marucs, etc) is in it as the leader of the Brotherhood, Neil Patrick Harris voices a drug dealing DJ, Eliza Dushku voices a sidekick who keeps stealing another sidekick's ideas, Phil LaMarr's in it, but he's in fucking everything so that barely even counts anymore... hell, you can have [url=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0789478/Maxwell Sheffield[/url] voice your character, if you want.
Anyway, yeah, it's a great game if you like the Sandbox GTA style of gaming. I also completely dig the character creation. The gender assignments are suggestions, basically. You can put whatever voice to whatever you want, and make your avatar look just about like whatever you'd want, both physically and via clothing. And as near as I can tell, no one remarks on your appearance as being unusual. The over-the-top violence, yes, but not your appearance. (Then again, maybe they're all terrified of you? That was a suggestion put forth as to why enemy gangs don't attack you on sight : they know your rep and the underlings are terrified at being blamed for starting a huge gang war for no reason)