The Boondock Saints (I and II) ~ (USA, 1999/2009) ~ DVD/In theaters

boondockThis is the movie (or movies) critics love to hate. It can be racist. It can be homophobic. Even sexist. The director (Troy Duffy, who also wrote the script) apparently is an a-hole, First Class. Capital A. But it can be funny and fun. At times it’s so over the top that it’s on the other side. Think Albert Finney with his gat in Miller’s Crossing. Think the Ford Coupe shoot up in Bonnie and Clyde. Not that Duffy’s films are anywhere near as polished as those. They’re not. But every now and again they approach the full-throttle stylized and operatic nature of those.

The McManus Brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery as Connor and Norman Reedus as Murphy) set out to rid the Boston neighborhoods of crime. They’re Robin Hood’s, with the emphasis on hoods. In this movie there are the bad bad guys and the good bad guys. The McManus Brothers are of the latter variety. With their manic sidekick Funny Man Rocco (David Della Rocco) the body count doesn’t just pile up, but mounts exponentially. Into the scene descends FBI savant Paul Smecker. Willem Dafoe gives a truly inspired performance as Smecker, one of his best roles in quite sometime. Worth the ticket just to see what he does with the character. For over-the-topness, he sets the tone.

Billy Connolly is just right as the patriarch: Da, or Il Duce. Depends on what side of the law you’re on. But of course, that line is seriously blurred as well, as the bros and Smecker team up in the cleansing ritual. The story unfolds on the screen as a one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of narrative. This presents some interesting possibilities, and Duffy exploits them – and then squeezes the life out of them. As Smecker investigates in his seer-intuitive style, as he explains his theory of what happened at this crime scene or that one, we inevitably find ourselves reliving what we’ve just seen, but with Smecker (Dafoe) walking through invisibly, and reenacting for the other investigators (and the film audience) what went down. This is an interesting technique, if somewhat overused. Forgiven in the first film (1999), The Boondock Saints, due to the firm presence of Dafoe.

The 10-year after sequel The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day have the boys (and Da) lured back by the mob. Dafoe is replaced by Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz), who is good. Very good, but still not Dafoe here. And Clifton Collins Jr. as the “Mexican” sidekick Romeo (as a stand-in third musketeer for Rocco) is a cut below as well. All is not lost though, there’s a surprise in store at the end of the sequel. The gauntlet has already been thrown down for a third roundsaintsII. This sequel is a bit of a re-hash stylistically, tending to the formulaic side. The formula being Duffy’s.

These films are just a load of good movie house fun though. Tarantino was maybe looking for this schtick with his Death Proof/Grindhouse films. I’d rather this than some of the pretentious crap out there, some of the limp ‘romantic comedies’, some of the thrill-less thrillers. Critics oughtta take a step back and reassess what going to the movies is supposed to be all about, first and foremost.

♦♦♦

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