The Boondock Saints

(1999) * R
109 min. Indican Pictures. Director: Troy Duffy. Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly.

/content/films/3364/1.jpgTroy Duffy's The Boondock Saints has gradually become a certified cult hit since 1999. The original theatrical release lasted one week in only five theaters. Writer-director Duffy wound up putting some of his own money into screenings of the film, and it's had a strong enough afterlife on video to justify a sequel, The Boondock Saints: All Saints Day. But nothing is more telling in the brief history of this "little film that would" than Overnight—the documentary feature about the making and unmaking of The Boondock Saints—which reveals Duffy to be a complete tool. I suppose that fact should have no bearing on fans' enjoyment of Duffy's film, but I would challenge them to check out Overnight nonetheless, as it's a vastly better film.

As for The Boondock Saints, it's obnoxious and repellent macho bullshit. Duffy earns a special place in movie hell by not only making a cynical film that makes heroes of murderous vigilantes: this we've seen before. Duffy sets himself apart by giving his heroes Biblical motivation. South Boston Irish Catholic brothers Conner and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, lending a modicum of undue charisma) sport matching crosses and Mary tattoos. They're devoted churchgoers who sort of work at a meat-packing plant when not getting well and drunk at the local pub. Because they're also smug idiots and jerks, they engage in a fight with some Russian mobsters, eventually slaying them in a messy showdown. They like the taste of retributive murder, and declaring "the indifference of good men" the greater evil, they decide to become serial killers for God, going after "rapists and murderers and child molesters...[and] mafiosos."

The pair aren't just anti-heroes, though; they're hateful characters. In brief moments, they have clarity that could be described as smarts, but mostly they're hapless, reckless fools, and their "mission from God" angle immediately loses its cachet when they shrug and start taking marching orders on whom to kill from their crazy tweaker friend David "The Funnyman" Della Rocco (David Della Rocco). Their motto is "Destroy all that which is evil so all that is good will flourish," but what should we think of their sincerity when, after collecting filthy lucre following a multiple homicide, Murphy says, "I love our new job." This bizarre dichotomy is built into nearly every action the boys take, like their trademark sign-off before killing someone: cocking their guns rhythmically while reciting a Latin prayer. In a bit of implicit magic realism, we're led to believe the brothers are under God's protection; I have to hope that most believers would find this notion blasphemous nonsense, and most non-believers would find the film simply irrelevant nonsense.

Duffy's seeming confusion comes to a head in a courtroom climax , during which Murphy speechifies, "Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal, these are principles which every man of every faith can embrace....There are varying degrees of evil, we urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over, into true corruption, into our domain." So they're corrupt after all? I can go with that, but Duffy never dramatizes a moment of moral awareness for the characters; he simply puts in their mouths, an afterthought. Duffy's primary concern is looking cool and daring, like his presumable hero Quentin Tarantino. So we get heroes outfitted in black trenchcoats and sunglasses and cigarettes and guns. We get a gay FBI Agent (Willem Dafoe) who listens to opera on a Discman while sizing up a crime scene, and isn't above homophobic slurs. We get Ron Jeremy as a thug, and Billy Connolly as an assassin named "Il Duce." It's one thing to make a film that's violent and profane; it's another to make one that's a moral black hole, and to do it because black looks cool.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/14/2011

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The 10th Anniversary The Boondock Saints: Truth & Justice Edition Blu-ray (+ Digital Copy) adds one significant bonus feature to the previously released Blu-ray edition. The brand-new retrospective "The Boondock Saints - The Film and the Phenomenon" (28:56, HD) is a sit-down roundtable discussion with Troy Duffy, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and David Della Rocco reminiscing about the film's making and celebrating its big impact on fans. It's a nifty extra, but not enough to justify a double-dip for more than the most die-hard of fans.

The rest is the same as in the 2009 release: The Boondock Saints appears in both the unrated "Extended Director's Cut" version and the "Theatrical Cut," which differ in mere seconds presumably to satisfy the MPAA (alternate bloodier takes make their way into the director's cut). The A/V quality is solid, and certainly an upgrade from DVD in terms of detail; black level is strong, though the flesh tones err to the red side. Sound is no doubt as good as it gets for this film, in a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that ably handles dialogue and the many, many gunshots with equal clarity and a well-considered directional balance.

Bonus features are familiar from earlier editions: an audio commentary with writer/director Troy Duffy, an audio commentary with actor Billy Connelly, 7 Deleted Scenes, "Outtakes" (1:32, SD), The Boondock Saints Script, and the "Theatrical Trailer" (2:05, SD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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