REVIEW: The Boondock Saints [1999]

“Evil is the indifference of good men”

Why did Troy Duffy need to open his mouth and burn every bridge he had in Hollywood? After making an amazing movie like The Boondock Saints, more so for being his first feature film script and direction, fans are told a sequel, All Saints Day, is planned. Unfortunately no one will probably ever see that film because of Duffy’s arrogance and pride. After being given money and trust to create the movie, he repaid his backers with public insults during his drunken stupors. It is a real shame as his talent is apparent and could have molded into something very good.

Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are the MacManus brothers, two Irish boys that are highly spiritual and modestly intelligent. They live in virtual squalor, work at a meat factory, and drink with their buddies. After a self-defense killing, which triggered a shot of adrenaline against heavy odds to be victorious, they begin to believe they have a purpose on this earth. While spending the night in jail after the incident, to avoid the mob of reporters outside, the brothers both wake from a dream which gives them their duty, (from God?), to dispatch of the evils of the world. They become vigilantes, killing those dangerous criminals who once captured would eventually be let go by the system. Both are very good in their roles, using what they know of Charles Bronson and James Bond to get the job done. Each hit is done with folly and “that only happens in the movies” moments, but in the end they are completed professionally and effectively. The knowledge by the characters about their own blind luck is a nice touch and helps the audience go along for the ride as they never take themselves too seriously, except of course for the reasoning behind their murderous deeds.

Although the two boys are the stars and drive of the movie, the outstanding performance belongs to the great Willem Dafoe. He plays a homosexual FBI agent named Paul Smecker and is always able to orchestrate in his head, along with the help of classical music through his headphones, every nuance of the past days’ atrocities. Smecker follows closely behind the brothers trying to crack the case, slowly leading him down the path of reevaluating what it is his job truly accomplishes, and if these killers are actually doing more good than he. Duffy shows great visual flair showing Smecker as he reconstructs each crime. We always see the incidents through his eyes and not the MacManuses themselves. This style eventually gives us the best scene—a fight at a poker game of criminals. Here instead of quick cuts between the orator and past events, we see Dafoe in frame, calmly narrating as the vigilantes do their work alongside. The scream of “There was a FIREFIGHT!” has amazing bravado and theatricality that would be laughable anywhere else, but ultimately poignant and fitting in context here.

Along with one of Dafoe’s career turns come some very nice supporting players. The non-actor David Della Rocco does an amazing job as the brothers’ Italian low-level mobster friend, actually based on himself by friend Duffy. He is the “Funnyman” as he is called in the film, adding the best instances of comic relief besides the scathing retorts of Dafoe. His heart and naïveté help us understand our antiheroes’ intents. They both protect him like a brother and try to show him that what they do is for good; they only kill evil men, those that laws can’t seem to rid society of. We also get nice turns from Billy Connolly and Gerard Parkes. Seeing Connolly in a non-comedic role is a nice change for me; his remorseless assassin Il Duce is a brilliantly constructed character. I give full credit to the director for getting a performance against type from him. As for Parkes, from “Fraggle Rock” fame, we get nice comic relief with his stuttering, Tourettes afflicted bartender.

The Boondock Saints is a high action, intelligently told story filled with violence, comedy, and drama. Duffy’s style is uncommonly polished for being his first outing and it’s a real shame that it will probably be his last. Hopefully, one day, he will become man enough to take the bullet and apologize for what he did, so that we can see what else is in him artistically. I haven’t seen it yet, but the documentary Overnight tells the story of development and filming activities during which his descent into hell happened. A burgeoning cult classic, Saints will hopefully be remembered for the energetic ride it is and not the off-camera mistakes of its’ creator.

The Boondock Saints 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


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