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The Boondock Saints
USA 1999
Directed by Troy Duffy
Running time 108 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars



The Boondock Saints is first-time screenwriter/director Troy Duffy’s entertaining if somewhat dubious vigilante movie. The story concerns Irish-American brothers, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus), who kill a couple of Russian Mafia enforcers sent to take over their local South Boston bar (no doubt where Will and Chuckie from Good Will Hunting would drop in for a beer). The act is deemed self-defence by the police and the pair are hailed as everyman heroes by the media. They arrive at the conclusion that they are on mission from God and set about eliminating the entire Mob and any low-life who get in their way. Meanwhile an FBI agent Willem Dafoe sent to investigate their crimes becomes persuaded of their righteousness.

Stylistically, with its hyper-kinetic violence, jump-cutting and punchy pop soundtrack,the film is strongly reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.which came out a year earlier. Unlike the latter Duffy's film stiffed at the box office but went on to acquire a cult following on the home video circuit.

The appeal of The Boondock Saints is easy to understand – it wraps a simple, cathartically violent vigilante fantasy (despite the fact that it is overwhelmingly male dominated I was recommended the film by a young woman and apparently it has a high proportion of female fans) in a fast-paced, off-kilter way. Much of the off-kilteredness is down to Dafoe’s turn as a gay-hating, investigating detective given to casual sex with men and camping it up at crime scenes. Although it is not great acting, Dafoe fans should be well pleased.  Less successful is having Billy Connolly as a socio/psychopathic gunman. Not only is not enough made of the character, Connolly is simply not intimidating enough for the part and the his scenes are the soft centres in what is otherwise a box of hard candy..

Although in terms of violence The Boondock Saints is not any more outrageous than your average contemporary Hollywood gangster movie, a lot of people are going to founder on the questionability of its indulgence in  vigilante fantasizing. It is an issue given a gloss of sophistication by a vox-pop ending but in the final analysis the film doesn't get beyond being a better-than-average exploitation flick. (If you see the documentary Overnight about Duffy's rise and fall it is easy the discern the relationship between the director's overweening egotism and the appeal to him of righteous vengeance)

FYI:  A 2003 documentary Overnight chronicles Duffy’s story from when in 1997 as bartender with no film experience, Harvey Weinstein bought Duffy’s Boondock Saints script for $300,000 and signed him to direct the movie with a budget of $15 million and for his band to do the soundtrack. Duffy went on to alienate everyone involved, Weinstein dumped the film and after it failed at the box office and the band broke up it took off on home video rights although Duffy did not make any money out of it as he had already signed away his share. In 2009 a sequel, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, was released directed by Duffy and starring Flanery and Reedus but without Dafoe. It was not anywhere as well regarded as the original.

 

 

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