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Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years ago

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Written Oct. 31, 2009

Troy Duffy's The Boondock Saints has gradually become a certified cult hit since 1999. The original theatrical release lasted one week in only five theaters. Writer-director Duffy wound up putting some of his own money into screenings of the film, and it's had a strong enough afterlife on video to justify a sequel, The Boondock Saints: All Saints Day. But nothing is more telling in the brief history of this "little film that would" than Overnight— an awesome documentary feature about the making and unmaking of The Boondock Saints—which reveals Duffy to be a complete asshole. I suppose that fact should have no bearing on fans' enjoyment of Duffy's film, but I would challenge them to check out Overnight nonetheless, as it's a vastly better film…Just a personal note as there’s nothing more appealing about a film or filmmaker than what transpired prior to it’s explosion.

As for The Boondock Saints, it's obnoxious and repellent macho bullshit. Duffy earns a special place in movie hell by not only making a cynical film that makes heroes of murderous vigilantes: this we've seen before. Duffy sets himself apart by giving his heroes Biblical motivation. Sure the approach may be sacrilegious to an extent, but fuck it, it works! South Boston Irish Catholic brothers Conner and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, lending a unique charisma) sport matching crosses and Mary tattoos. They're devoted churchgoers who sort of work at a meat-packing plant when not getting well and drunk at the local pub. Because they're also smug idiots and jerks, they engage in a fight with some Russian mobsters, eventually slaying them in a messy showdown. They like the taste of retributive murder, and declaring "the indifference of good men" the greater evil, they decide to become serial killers for God, going after "rapists and murderers and child molesters.. .and mafiosos."

The pair isn’t just anti-heroes, though; they're hateful characters. In brief moments, they have clarity that could be described as smarts, but mostly they're hapless, reckless fools, and their "mission from God" angle immediately loses its cachet when they shrug and start taking marching orders on whom to kill from their crazy tweaker friend David "The Funnyman" Della Rocco (David Della Rocco). Their motto is "Destroy all that which is evil so all that is good will flourish," but what should we think of their sincerity when, after collecting filthy rewards following a multiple homicide, Murphy says, "I love our new job." This bizarre division is built into nearly every action the boys take, like their trademark sign-off before killing someone: cocking their guns rhythmically while reciting a Latin prayer. In a bit of implicit magic realism, we're led to believe the brothers are under God's protection; with controversial substance as such, I would imagine most believers would find this notion blasphemous nonsense, and most non-believers would find the film simply irrelevant nonsense. No matter how interpreted, the intensity and vibe which was formulated from the first one, surely was layered on for the sequel.

Duffy's seeming confusion comes to a head in a courtroom climax, during which Murphy speechifies, "Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal, these are principles which every man of every faith can embrace....There are varying degrees of evil, we urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over, into true corruption, into our domain." So they're corrupt after all? I can go with that, but Duffy never dramatizes a moment of moral awareness for the characters; he simply puts in their mouths, an afterthought. Duffy's primary concern is looking cool and daring, like his obvious presumable hero Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Bastards). So we get heroes outfitted in black trench coats and sunglasses and cigarettes and guns. We get a gay FBI Agent (Willem Dafoe) who listens to opera on a Discman while sizing up a crime scene, and isn't above homophobic slurs. We get Ron Jeremy as a thug, and Billy Connolly as an assassin named "Il Duce." It's one thing to make a film that's violent and profane; it's another to make one that's a moral black hole, and to do it because black looks cool.

It worked on all angles and truly believe it’s “second chapter” will keep it’s fan-base.



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