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Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Review: THE BOONDOCK SAINTS

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS
2000
R


"Whosoever shed man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."
-- Il Duce

The Boondock Saints is a 1999 dramatic action film directed by Troy Duffy that tells a vigilante tale set in the streets of Boston. After brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy MacManus (Norman Reedus) kill two Russian mobsters in self-defense, they have a joint spiritual vision that tells them to rid the world of its evil and corrupt men. The two begin to murder a string of Russian and Italian mobsters, which brings federal detective Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) onto the case to solve the mystery of the seemingly connected incidents. As the feds and police work through the crimes, the MacManus brothers enlist the help of their friend Rocco (David Della Rocco), a package boy in the Italian mafia, to point out their next hit. As the body count continues to climb, the brothers gain more and more enemies, but they might even start to gain friendship from the ethically-torn authorities.

I had heard about this film time and time again over the past ten years, but it wasn't only until the last few years that I had a chance to watch it. The Boondock Saints proved to be right up my alley, and although I've continually found a few flaws here and there, I still find it to be one of the more entertaining and thought-provoking films I've seen. This is a little strange to me because it's rare that my personal film tastes are so stark in comparison to the general consensus of other film critics. This is the case with The Boondock Saints, however. The film currently holds only a seventeen percent approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com, which offers the following critical consensus:
A juvenile, ugly movie that represents the worst tendencies of directors channeling Quentin Tarantino.
Those are some pretty harsh words, to say the least. However, there is a massive disparity between critical thoughts on the film and the feelings that audiences have had. The film's page on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) claims that the film has achieved a user score of 7.8 out of a possible ten points, meaning that it is on the higher end of scored films. I don't know whether I've ever seen this large of a difference between critical and lay audience feelings on a film.

But enough with all of these facts. Let's get into the reasons as to why I personally love The Boondock Saints. For starters, I'm relatively in love with the cast. Although the majority of our actors aren't necessarily bringing forth the greatest of performances, everything seems to fit accordingly with the film and its overall tone. I think that Flanery and Reedus were the perfect choices to portray our vigilante brothers, and the chemistry they have within the film is pretty spot-on for what you might imagine. For all we know, they could've been brothers in a past life, and this film only serves as an outlet for them to express their brotherly feelings. In addition, I think we're getting a career-best performance from Willem Dafoe. Sure, he's had some great parts in films like Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ or, more recently, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but there's a powerful force behind his performance in The Boondock Saints that can't be denied. It's also easily the most quotable of his characters, and that alone makes his Paul Smecker a more memorable character. We're also getting a good bit of comedic relief from David Della Rocco, and be sure to be on the watch for smaller roles from the likes of Billy Connolly and Ron Jeremy.

And now, for the screenplay. After watching the film today, I realized that the screenplay actually answers most of the questions I had ever had about the storyline. If you pay close attention, it actually answers all the questions it poses and leaves the audience satisfied. You're not left wondering why certain things happened, and although there's a few scratch-your-head moments, they're merely at points where you wonder why a film might even go in that direction. The movie is over-the-top, but it still manages to work because it never once lets off the gas. When an outrageous film attempts to bring it down a little bit, we usually have disastrous results. However, if a film can aim for over-the-top and keep the pedal to the metal throughout, then you should be in for quite a treat. That's what The Boondock Saints does, and it does it well.

The real meat of the film's screenplay comes with the question of ethics that it proposes. As with any story of vigilantism, there are going to be those who are for and those who are against the idea. In terms of the cinematic landscape, I'm not sure if there has ever been a film that takes the idea to the extremes that The Boondock Saints does, but the basic question that it poses is still one that we can all think about and ponder. One of the best scenes in the film actually comes as the credits roll. In the scene, we see a faux news segment where a reporter asks a number of average Joe citizens how they feel about the vigilante justice that the aptly-named "Saints" have brought to the city of Boston. As one can imagine, we see both sides of the argument, and although the scene is obviously staged, it still proves to be a fascinating - and probably accurate - look at how the public might react to such a situation. I've found the scene for your viewing pleasure, so I hope you can enjoy it:


I also liked a lot of the stylistic choices that director Troy Duffy made in shooting the film. Most of the action sequences are shown in flashback as Agent Smecker tries to work through what might have happened, and at times, he inserts himself into these playbacks, adding a bit of dramatization to them. I think that the Rottentomatoes.com consensus is right in calling the film Tarantino-esque, and you can see that Duffy was attempting to bring forth something similar. The film definitely has a pseudo-Tarantino feel to it, but to compare it to a Tarantino film wouldn't be giving The Boondock Saints enough credit. It's nowhere near that level of film-making, but it definitely manages to take the mold and run with it efficiently and effectively.

At the end of the day, I personally think that The Boondock Saints is a fine film, and it's easily an entertaining one even if it's not necessarily the most profound. Despite its initial trouble gaining an audience, the film has managed to become a cult favorite over the past twelve years. It even garnered enough of a following to give Duffy a reason to create a sequel, which was released in 2009. It wasn't quite as good as the first film, but it managed to continue the story rather well. However, it owes a lot of credit to this first film, which is so much better than most critics will ever give it credit.


Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-
Should You Watch It? Yes

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