Directed by Troy Duffy
Written by Troy Duffy
Cast: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Willem Dafoe, Ron Jeremy, and Billy Connolly
Length: 1 hour and 48 minutes
Genre: Action, crime, thriller
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“Fraternal twins set out to rid Boston of the evil men operating there while being tracked down by an FBI agent.”
After they are nearly killed in the aftermath of a bar fight, brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus use their multi-lingual abilities to learn of an upcoming meeting of the Russian mob and decide to take justice into their own hands. When the deed is done, their friend Rocco (David Della Rocco), a peon in the Italian Mafia, shows up and it seems he was set up. He decides to help the brothers take down the syndicate as a form of revenge. Meanwhile, the brothers are dogged by virtuoso F.B.I. Agent, Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), who slowly loses his nerve as each killing baffles him until he discovers who the vigilantes are and must decide whether he will help them.
The cinematography and story structure are probably the most redeeming qualities of The Boondock Saints. Each crime scene in the film is presented after the introduction of how they began. After establishing the setting and situation, the film cuts to the detectives going over the crime scene and re-creating what happened. Duffy also makes use of slow motion to emphasize certain moments in the story and heighten the dramatic effect.
That is around where the good in the movie ends. The MacManus brothers seem to derive their actions and aesthetic on what will look cool. Placing pennies over the eyes of the dead, saying a long prayer after killing mafiosos, and dressing alike all seem to stem from Duffy sitting down, saying, “Wouldn’t it look cool if…” and then shooting it on film. Part of this is inherent in the “family prayer” that the brothers recite at the end of their killing; it is reminiscent of the Ezekiel 25:17 line spoken by Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the 1992 film, Pulp Fiction, whose character admits that he initially thought it was some cold stuff to say before he killed someone.
I found that I continued to have issues with the film as I watched. The fake accents (both leads are American actors) sometimes drop during scenes, especially for Reedus, which pulled me out of the film and was something I noticed from the very first viewing. There isn’t any character development between the brothers and Rocco; they stay at the same level throughout the movie which leaves them flat and doesn’t allow any emotional connection unless you happen to be as dissatisfied with the justice system as they are. There are some funny moments, such as getting lost and arguing in an air duct and an incident that befalls the cat that belongs to Rocco’s girlfriend, but they are overshadowed by the movie’s odd treatment of women and minorities.
There is a racist joke included in the film and, while it introduces the animosity between Rocco and Vincenzo (Ron Jeremy. Yes…THAT Ron Jeremy), it really doesn’t serve much purpose besides gaining a few guffaws from certain viewers. I also question the entire reason that Smecker’s character is a homosexual, and can only reach the conclusion that it is so the viewer will more readily believe he is comfortable dressing in drag to infiltrate the mafia boss’s house near the end of the film. In fact, this movie is filled with machismo and the only female characters are defined by violence and weakness; Rocco points a gun at his girlfriend and her friend, the stripper who faints during one of the hits is sexually assaulted by Rocco (and it’s played off as a joke), the wife of a man they are going to kill is knocked out with a stun gun, and Smecker is knocked unconscious by Il Dulce (Billy Connolly) because he thinks Smecker is a woman and won’t kill him as a rule.
I’m not sure how many times I have watched The Boondock Saints since I first heard about it eight years ago. I will admit that, at the time, I was heavily influenced by it. The masculinity, the cool pea coats, and sense of fraternity all appealed to me, but that has changed as the years went by and I studied film. This is considered a cult film, with a fanbase that defends it to the end of the earth; I once considered myself a fan, but I fear I no longer can after this review. Let me be clear; I had no intention of lambasting it so viciously, but there were such glaring issues that I could not ignore. If you need something on in the background of your Saint Paddy’s Day party (and the group is mostly comprised of men), then this is a good film for you; if not, best to avoid it.
Verdict: 2 fraternal action movies out of 5
Recommended for: 17-year-olds, those seeking the smallest mention of Irish culture in film, fans of cool-looking movies, and those who enjoy Fight Club (1999) (I only mention this because my copy of The Boondock Saints (1999) also included the Edward Norton and Brad Pitt film).
Not recommended for: Those seeking accurate depictions of Irish people, females, those easily offended by cursing, or those who want substance with their spectacle.