The Boondock Saints (Blu-ray)
Directed by Troy Duffy
While The Boondock Saints undeniably has a couple highly effective scenes, the urban legend surrounding the making of this "cult fave" is far more intriguing than the movie itself. It's overwrought, under thought, sports a cameo by porn king Ron Jeremy, and, like most cult classics, it's the ludicrous nature of the movie that garners attention more than any degree of genuine quality.
The Saints are Coming
The saints and Il Duce
Photo: 20th Century Fox
The concept is simple. Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) and Murphy (Norman Reedus, Cadillac Records) are the McManus brothers. They're two hooligans working in a meat packing plant; they've got strong Irish-Catholic roots and they espouse a sense of very rough justice. Stretching things a bit far, they're also multi-lingual and can wade through a police interrogation shifting from English to German to Latin to Spanish.
The movie starts in a Boston church as a monsignor speaks about the callousness of modern society. The greatest evil to fear the most is the indifference of good men, he says. Among the attendees are Connor and Murphy; for them, the monsignor is preaching to the choir.
After a barroom brawl with the Boston chapter of the Russian mafia, the brothers McManus decide to give their Cyrillic competition a bitter taste of their special brand of justice. From there, their antics escalate, buttressed by a lack of public outcry – and, indeed, a certain amount of public support – since they're perceived as cleaning up the streets rather than terrorizing them.
Pinky and the Brainless
After watching The Boondock Saints, comparing director Troy Duffy to names like Tarantino, Ritchie and Scorsese – at least in terms of aspirations – is inevitable. The movie is ultra-violent and ultra-vulgar and the comparisons are addressed, fairly rationally, by Duffy during his running commentary.
However, another name worth dropping is Python. Yes, as in Monty Python. It makes for an easy, comfortable explanation for the mayhem surrounding one particularly over-the-top scene in which a master sharpshooter nicknamed Il Duce (Billy Connolly, The X-Files: I Want to Believe) shoots up an entire neighborhood but the flesh tally amounts to little more than a pinky.
A Paul Smecker crime fantasy
Photo: 20th Century Fox
Yes, folks, it's only a flesh wound.
The sad thing is this particular sequence plays with a couple pretty cool ideas. Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe, The English Patient), a homosexual crime scene investigator with a knack for recreating events on the scene while listening to opera, narrates – as Duffy notes, in a Rod Serling-esque fashion – his imagining of the vicious gunfight. He then goes off the deep end, virtually stealing the scene in a ballistic climax that calls to mind Dafoe's famed death scene in Platoon, this time disheveled and blasting off bullets as an emotional release.
There's a critical piece of dialogue missing following that showdown, something that capitalizes on the dulcet rhythms of Connolly's heavy Irish-Scottish brogue. (Warning and spoiler alert: The following exercise in vulgarity divulges a key plot point.)
The movie needs something sensitive and honest, a comment that acknowledges what's transpired, something along the lines of:
IL DUCE: "Holy (bleepin') shite, you're my long lost sons! My apologies, lads, for nearly obliterating your (bleepin') arses on the porch! Good thing ya caught me on a really (bleepin') bad day and me aim was off a (bleepin') wee bit. That's what 30 (bleepin') years in the slammer'll do to ya. Your friend's (bleepin') pinky? Let's be (bleepin') thankful! The bloody thing'll grow back before ya (bleepin') know it. One day we'll all tip a (bleepin') pint and (bleepin') laugh about this! But not right now. Right now, let's go to court with our guns a' (bleepin') blazin' and administer some rough (bleepin') justice!"
Yeah. The movie needs an emotional bridge to tie it all together, none of that artsy family prayer stuff.
In fairness, this is a relatively impressive debut from a guy who'd never written and/or directed a movie before. In particular, the final scenes depicting a courtroom confrontation and a reporter-on-the-street survey of average citizens commenting on the brothers' antics are pretty darn good.
But the overall sensibility is so juvenile there's no gravitas surrounding the violence and mayhem. Instead, a pompous, pretentious attitude is plastered over a cheese-and-sleaze fest. Plus, particularly given this movie's infatuation with bloodshed, it has some of the most awfully executed blood makeup effects ever committed to film.
And that's not to mention the faulty opening frames that set the stage on a title card as "St. Patricks Day." Not St. Patrick's Day? Are we talkin' about multiple St. Patricks, or the legendary St. Patrick?
Ten years after this release, Duffy finally has another chance to prove his talent. His second movie is finally about to see the light of the projector and he's got some surprising A- and B-list talents on board, including Peter Fonda, Judd Nelson and Julie Benz.
It's called The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
Given the low-budget nature of the movie, this Blu-ray release is rather impressive. The biggest fault is a clumsy navigation system that partitions the two versions of the film, making them inaccessible one from the other. Also, the disc jacket erroneously attributes the two commentaries as running alongside the theatrical cut. The truth of the matter is those commentaries are on the extended director's cut. Even then, the designation of an "extended" director's cut is pretty disingenuous. A trifling five seconds differentiate the two and none of the supplemental features acknowledge the justification for making such a slight difference.
Digging right into those commentaries, Billy Connolly's track can only be described as one of the worst commentaries ever recorded. The entertainment value is derived solely from listening to his borderline-sycophantic ravings about the production. First put things in perspective. Connolly is onscreen for less than ten minutes but, apparently, he was on the set for the entire 32-day shoot.
"I took part in this extraordinary film," Connolly says, and he calls his role "the part of my lifetime." The superlatives continue, "One of the most extraordinary experiences of my life," he says. "I knew that the thinkin' people would get their hands on this. I said so at the time and I'm very proud of it." And Connolly describes Dafoe's opera scene as "sensitive and beautiful."
Perhaps the ultimate compliment, though, comes in this piece of treasure, "Everybody I know who's seen this movie talks about the toilet going through the air." Good gosh. It's a gas to listen to Connolly gush ad nauseam
The extended lapses, during which the audience gets a reprieve from Connolly's comments, are no doubt when Billy's gone to get water in order to rehydrate before launching another flurry of platitudes.
Far more interesting is director Troy Duffy's commentary. Contrary to all the hype surrounding the making of the movie and the portrayal of Duffy in the documentary Overnight, the man doesn't come across as particularly arrogant and it'd be interesting to pin down when this commentary was recorded in relation to Overnight's release. Indeed, Duffy even describes the whole experience as "almost an overnight thing."
The most interesting tidbit to take away from Duffy's commentary is the portion relating to the film's failed theatrical release. As it turns out, the shooting at Columbine in Colorado ultimately led to the film getting shelved in the U.S. Duffy notes he has Colorado roots and comes to the state three or four times a year, so that event has had an unusual and direct impact on his career, for better or worse.
It's also interesting to hear two conflicting takes on co-star David Della Rocco. According to Connolly, Rocco's the kind of guy who makes women swoon and whose smile lights up a room. But, to the contrary, Duffy tells a story about Rocco having a crush on a waitress at a restaurant frequented by the cast and crew. She wouldn't give him any play, apparently even after Willem Dafoe plays it up and asks Rocco for permission to give the fawning waitress his autograph.
Also on board are seven deleted scenes, spanning roughly 21 minutes. Included is an obnoxious extended sequence involving a lesbian newly hired at the meat packing plant. There's also an interesting but highly irritating long scene involving the brothers and their nutcase mom. Probably the most interesting of the bunch is an extended take on Dafoe's confession. Reiterating the earlier gripe about the disc's navigation, this section lacks a "play all" option, so each deleted scene has to be played one at a time.
Also on tap are 92 seconds of outtakes (take 'em or leave 'em), the theatrical trailer (presented in 1.33:1) and the script. Regarding the latter, either stand right in front of the TV to read it or get a Blu-ray compatible computer. A printable version is available on the standard DVD two-disc edition.
Unlike the previous DVD releases, this Blu-ray is D-Box Motion Code compatible for those who've indulged in the home theatre extravagance.
Picture and Sound
As noted on the supplements, given the low-budget nature of the film, the presentation of the feature is very well done. The 2.35:1 picture is nice and crisp, but that quality also makes the poorly-executed blood effects all the more obvious.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also impressive. The front channels in particular are terrific, but the sound design could use a little more ambience from the rear channels.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
How to Use This Disc
Watch the movie (either the theatrical or "extended" cut) and judge for thyself. Is it a black comedy? Or is a serious social commentary clumsily handled? For a laugh or two, listen to some of Billy Connolly's running commentary.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.