The Boondock Saints — Movie Review #JPMN


This low-budget action film by young musician
turned writer, director Troy Duffy, saw only a very limited released in January of 1999,
but has since gained a cult-following, grossing $50 on home video. Nearly indistinguishable,
both in appearance, character traits, and story-arcs, Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman
Reedus star as the title characters: two Irish brothers from Boston who take it upon themselves
to begin dishing out vigilante justice: executing numerous members of the local mafia. This
extremely R-rated crime thriller drops almost as many victims as it does F-bombs: it is
a violent, bloody, yet strangely cathartic experience. Opening with heaps of unnecessary
on-screen text exposition, we hear a Priest set the scene, when he warns his parish, “evil
which we must fear most… is the indifference of good men.” Not much of the cast is particularly
impressive: they’re Irish blokes playing, well… Irish blokes: the standout performer
though is clearly the film’s biggest name: William Dafoe as an eccentric, homosexual,
troubled, and humorously condescending FBI Special Agent: tasked with investigating the
half-dozen crime scenes the ‘Saints’ leave in their wake. Feeling like a bad mixture
of “The Godfather”, an episode of “Law & Order”, and a below-average Quentin Tarantino flick,
this 108-minute drama is certainly enthusiastic: but it ultimately pretends to be far cleverer
than it actually is. Watching charismatic actors dish out unrelenting violence to evil
mob-bosses is supremely entertaining, especially with its sharp and memorable dialogue: but
when the film simply repeats this same basic sequence five more times, it definitely results
in a hollow experience. When the film finally does turn a corner, the climax is a bit of
a disappointment, with everything slowing down for a moral discussion, and too many
religious overtones. Often executed in stylistic slow-motion flashbacks, the gun-battles and
fight scenes are decently choreographed, if entirely unrealistic. Weird cutaways, like
Dafoe in bed with another man, or a scene where a cat is accidentally blasted all over
a wall, do nothing to advance the plot, and feel completely out of step with the film’s
more serious tone. The editing and visuals are fast and slick however, and one scene
where Dafoe is recounting a crime-scene theory, that has him physically occupying the space
he’s describing is really very cool to watch unfold. On a visceral level, this picture
does a great job of connecting with the audience emotionally: you want to see the good guys
kill the bad guys… but on an actual filmmaking level, it’s detrimentally ambitious, heavy-handed,
and not always thrilling. “The Boondock Saints”, “Fun, blunt enjoyment, but repetitive.” Now
let’s see what you wrote in the YouTube comments. Our scores now for “The Boondock Saints”…
a NINE and a SIX. Many cite this as a personal favorite, a defacto cult-classic, it’s no
surprise the younger, male-oriented Movie Night audience scored this an AWESOME. With
underdeveloped leads, a tiresome plot, and religious judgment used a plot device, I definitely
feel like this picture is overrated. Fun dialogue, cool bloodbaths, and a brilliant performance
from Dafoe — but this is merely a poor man’s action thriller masquerading as art. I thought
it was GOOD though.

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