Comfortable and Furious

The Boondock Saints (1999)

Written and Directed by Troy Duffy

Inspired by the Crusades

– Willem Dafoe as Paul Smecker
– Sean Patrick Flanery as Connor MacManus
– Norman Reedus as Murphy MacManus
– David Della Rocco as David Della ‘Roc/Funny Man’ Rocco
– Billy Connolly as Il Duce

Calling The Boondock Saints a pathetic, clusterfuck of a film that de-elevates bad-filmmaking to a new low is easy. Explaining why exactly the above sentence is accurate, factual and necessary is another matter. Recently I watched Overnight, the schadenfreude-filled documentary chronicling the genesis of how exactly The Boondock Saints were born into our world. In my review of that film, I explained that I had partially-viewed Saints previously, but unlike most movies I watch (about say 99%), I shut Saints off before its conclusion. Obviously, Overnight and its central character, the heinous Troy Duffy, piqued my interest and I decided to re-watch this boondoggle. Suffice to say it was MUCH worse the whole way through and I will explain why specifically in the following paragraphs. Of note, however, is the fact that I originally shut the film off with only fifteen minutes to go. Not only does this illustrate what a bad job Duffy did trying to tell his story, but it necessitates the need for me to break down the film into sections or “acts.” Read on.

Act I:

It is not hard for me to say that the first act of The Boondock Saints, the first thirty-five minutes or so, is good. Not great or breathtaking or insightful or anything like that; it is through a solid piece of filmmaking. The characters are introduced, they are mysterious enough that I am interested in seeing what they do next and nothing blatantly insulting, stupid or depressing occurs. We meet our two heroes (who I will just call “Potato” and “Blarney”) in church. It is Saint Patrick’s Day and they have matching tattoos of the Virgin Mary on their necks and they are praying much harder than everyone else around them. Throughout the film both Potato and Blarney pull out and fondle (and basically fetishize) these crosses they wear ’round their necks.

This means they are extra-Irish. Or something. Anyhow, while the guest-priest is giving his sermon, the I-Drink-Guinness Brothers (Potato and Blarney) walk up to the giant Jesus behind the stage and start extra-devoutly saying their own prayer. The guest-priest (from a cross-town Parish) is told not to worry; that’s just how the Shamrock Bros are. They leave church and go directly to their local bar to start drinking. These Russian mob dudes show up — apparently the Russian mob is buying up all the property in Southie and they need to shut the McMick Brothers’ joint down ASAP. ASAP being 1:00 am on St. Patrick’s Day, which presumably is a Sunday. Essentially, it is an excuse for a bar fight and the keen eye will notice that besides the Leprechaun Twins, Duffy himself (plus the idiot-goons from his band) are the other patrons and they too of course bust some heads. Hey man, I LOVE Roadhouse. I could watch nothing but bar fights all day.

We then cut to an alley and two of the mobsters are dead. They were killed in an odd way. One cop posits that a giant “four-hundred-pound” man crushed one of them to death. Willem Dafoe shows up, he’s an openly gay FBI agent who gets results and in the greatest case of cinematic larceny committed in recent memory, actually begins listening to classical music on his headphones while doing his investigation. I just checked; The Professional came out in 1994.

Anyhow, employing a “technique” that mercilessly repeats itself throughout the whole of the film, Duffy has Dafoe use his Sherlock Holmes-like abilities to deduce exactly what happened at the crime-scene; then, via slow-mo flashback, we get to watch as every-word Dafoe says is proved correct. This “technique” works during the first act of Saints. As time marches on, it redefines the word “tedious.” And, just to “spoil” it for you, one of the Brothers throws a toilet off the roof of a five-story building killing one of the Ruskies; he then leaps off the same roof, accurately falls five-stories and lands smack-on the other baddie. His brother then takes the toilet lid and beats the crushed Russian to death with it. Dafoe is just starting to get a man-hunt together when the Bushmills Boys turn themselves in. Then, they explain to Dafoe that it was self-defense and he lets them walk free. And then the movie jumps off a cliff.

Act II:

The Brothers are so offended that the Russian mob bought their bar, that they decided to exact revenge. Killing the two bozos wasn’t enough for them; they’re taking the whole mob down. Think about this for a second — two Irish guys go on a killing spree because their bar gets shut down. Let’s pretend that a movie exists where two black guys waste PETA because they shutdown KFC. Actually, that would be worth watching. Anyhow, this points to the fact that Bamboozled is one of the least-understood movies of all time. Serious; Irish guys murdering scores of people because their favorite bar gets shut down is the punch-line to a joke; Duffy misses this entirely. The movie goes totally unhinged during the second crime scene investigation. Nine Russian mobbies are found dead in a hotel suite. They all have coins placed over their eyes. Everyone is puzzled by this except Dafoe who instantly deduces that the ancient Greeks and Romans did this because they believed that the dead had to pay the boatman to get across the river of death or whatever.

You have got to agree that the line, “I just use whatever bits of Eastern philosophy float my way,” from Spinal Tap is sadly under-appreciated. To bolster my point; the two victims at the first crime-scene DID NOT have pennies on their eyes; all the victims at future crimes scenes DO NOT have pennies on their eyes — just this one particular crime scene. And, this makes sense to Dafoe’s FBI-guy character because the Greeks and the Romans used to do it. Note to Mr. Duffy: Just because you read something in a Soldier of Fortune article doesn’t mean it is relevant, interesting or appropriate. And the shit with the Murphy’s-in-a-Can Siblings ludicrously falling through an air-duct, getting hung up on ropes and still managing to waste eight mobsters all the while spinning by their ankles, and then excusing this nonsense by having Dafoe exclaim, “this doesn’t happen in real life! This kind of shit only happens in bad movies!” makes your film go from bad to fuck-you-it’s-awful.

Act 2 also sees the realization of Rocco; an errand boy for the Russian Mob (though he is Italian — actually, I was constantly annoyed by the fact that the film was supposedly concerned with the Russian Mob, yet they all had Italian last names and Italian Mob-trappings. Complete laziness and ineptitude on the part of whoever wrote Saints… oh yeah, that asshole). Rocco can best be thought of as Poochie crossed with Charlie Manson. He’s loud, “whacky,” outrageous and frankly the most annoying character I can remember watching recently. Rocco feels like one of those “color” characters big budget directors toss in because their scripts are so shallow; like the kid in I, Robot who does nothing but cuss and supposedly appeal to teenagers.

Rocco is identical yet worse, for all he can do is scream and holler. I’m not kidding, he yells the entire film. And says “fuck” constantly. And not in a good, intelligent, Al Swearingen sorta way that interests adults. No, Rocco swears in the infantile way that an 11-year-old would while trying his/her first cigarette and realizing that Mommy isn’t around to put soap to mouth. Dull as rocks to anyone who has ever had to pay their own power bill. Moreover, the “nigger” joke that Rocco is forced to tell to the Mob Boss and Ron Jeremy is a film-within-a-film on how to shoot bad scenes. Rocco is made to tell a joke on the spot and he chooses one about how America would be better off if all blacks and Mexicans were gone. However, the mob boss and Ron Jeremy inexplicably force him to use the word “nigger” instead of “black people.” Was Duffy trying to comment that it is OK to tell racist jokes as long as you use PC terms like “African America?” If so, what the fuck does that mean? Anyhow, Act 2 is just nonstop gunfire and extremely loud, incoherent ramblings-on from Rocco. And then Saints really goes off the rails.

Act III:

Rarely have I witnessed crap as awful as the last third of this film. By now, as a viewer you are sick to death of the “Dafoe explains/slow-mo replay shows” action sequences. We fucking got it the first three times. But no, Duffy decides to combine the two, having Dafoe explain what happened as it is happening. In slow-motion, of course. Which might be considered innovative if it wasn’t so fucking lousy and preposterous. There stands Potato and Blarney and Rocco blazing away with two guns each (which, if you have ever fired a handgun you know is far-fetched) and next to them is Dafoe; brimming with near-orgasm at the simultaneous reenactment (I know that makes no sense). He’s got both fingers pointed like pistols as if he is mowing down the bad guys himself.

Perhaps he really wants to be doing just that? And then, when “The Duke” (I’ll get to him) shows up and Dafoe is standing in the crossfire exclaiming “THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT HERE!!!!!!!!!!,” well, I don’t know how Dafoe could look at himself in the mirror the day after. Bloviated nonsensical romanticizing of wanton violence at its worst. And remember, I like violence. The trouble is here there is no point to it whatsoever. Four men are firing at each other essentially point-blank for five minutes straight and no one dies. Yawnsville. Then it gets worse, as the three-gun nuts are captured, Rocco is killed and Dafoe shows up in drag to assist them by killing more mobsters. See, he did want to be involved in those massacres. I really don’t even know what happens at the end in the mob dude’s house, for it was so stupid. And then it gets even worse

Theft, Laziness, Style Over Everything, Etc:

The Boondock Saints is a veritable heist of shit from other films. I mentioned Dafoe’s Gary Oldman impersonation already. Little if anything from this film is original. Suffice to say that if Quentin Tarantino never made it out of the video store, Saints wouldn’t exist. The aforementioned “Duke” is almost a carbon copy of “Mr. Swish” from Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. The head of the Russian Mob goes to ask permission from the retired head of the Russian Mob to use “El Duce.” He’s crazy!! El Duce is a killing machine; an animal. We know this because he is taken out of his prison cell Hannibal Lector-style. And he smokes a cigar! At least Mr. Swish (AKA Uncle Salty) actually did some fairly psycho-shit in Denver; all The Duke does is chomp oh his ‘gar while missing three people standing directly across the street from him with nary a rosebush in the way of his bullets. What a maniac. Why Billy Connolly would sully himself with this waste of celluloid is beyond me. Also stolen and bad is the fact that the two brothers are constantly praying immediately before or after they waste people. Yes Duffy — Sam Jackson’s recitation of that Psalm in Pulp Fiction was a great scene, but enough already.

All actors present firmly subscribe to the belief that volume is in someway a substitute for skill. This is a method employed by sixteen-year-olds in high school plays the world round. Moreover, showing three straight minutes of one guy firing a gun is supposed to possess great meaning and shed some insight into the character’s psyche beyond the fact that he likes to kill people. You get my point; this film rots. And the stylization — which is just near-impossible to swallow — is beyond compare. Look, its two tattooed booze-hounds with crosses, black clothing and handguns! Cool!!! They might as well be Vatican guards. Always remember; the Nazis were nothing if not masters of fashion and (empty) symbolism. Which leads us to my next point.

Rightwing Agenda/Fascist Indoctrination:

This is where The Boondock Saints really separates itself from other comers. The hard-line, reactionary bullshit we as viewers are forced to swallow moves this movie from simply another loud, boring mess into the tragedy column. I am very pleased that I watched Overnight before re-watching Saints for it cleared all doubt from my mind that Troy Duffy is nothing if he is not a megalomaniacal, unpolished rightwing turd. The part of Saints I have not been mentioning is why exactly the two drunken brothers (and the awful Rocco) kill so many people. Because they decided that there is too much “evil” in the world. And who is “evil” according to our two Mensa-heroes? Why, whoever they decide should die is who. To quote Jello Biafra, “You’re a terrorist.

And so is your niece.” In one of the most unnerving scenes I’ve ever witnessed, the three dipshits show up at a porno theater where Ron Jeremy’s character hangs out every week (natch). Just before (or was it after? Or does it not matter?) they waste the Hedgehog, they discover that there are two other “bad guys” in separate booths. They can waste all three! Now again, the two other guys are not in the Russian Mob that shut down their Irish Bar; they are just two “scumbags” that Rocco recognizes — and they slaughter them because they are “bad.” Pathetic (I should mention that Rocco takes the time to molest an unconscious woman — remember, he is the “good guy”). Again, why are they “evil” and deserving of death? Because these three say so.

And then in a scene that I never got to the first time through, reactionary vigilantism is given new life. The head of the Russian Mob is on trial. He has not been sentenced yet — he is simply on trial. The Brothers and The Duke have teamed up — through prayer I should point out — and Dafoe (who agrees with their “kill ’em all” tactics) arranges for the Irish Revenge Fantasy Trio to bust into the courtroom, give a speech about vengeance while holding dozens and dozens of innocent people at gunpoint and then recite yet another prayer before executing the mob boss.

In the courtroom. Before a verdict is reached. Fucking sickening. Do you wonder why, in contemporary America there is little to no organized youth movement against the wholly unjustified war that is raging in Iraq? No 60s-style peace movement? The Boondock Saints is rated a 7.8 on and I would wager good money that the large majority of the peons giving this sad excuse for moviemaking “10 stars” are under the age of 25. Additionally, and sadly, I have had several people write me since my Overnight review and state something sadly similar to the following;

Great stuff. Oh yeah, uh, I can’t understand the liking of Vin Diesel movies, especially saying The Pacifier was better than The Boondock Saints. Granted that I haven’t seen the former, but I don’t like Vin Diesel. I loved Saints, you guys are the first people I’ve heard say that you think it sucks.

These same kids have also never heard that condoms prevent pregnancy, that the government is fallible, and that religion is the cruelest and bloodiest lie ever foisted upon mankind.

What happened to the ethos that it is better to let ninety-nine guilty men go free rather than punish one innocent man? Oh yeah, it is in the same place that Unions, the 4th Amendment, Feminism, and Due Process all find themselves; i.e. fucking gone. America, it is time to mourn for your youth; they are truly lost.