Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Movie – The Boondock Saints (1999)

Several years ago I used to occasionally do searches on IMDB for films that had been rated by at least 20,000 people and then look through the ones I hadn’t watched to pick something that looked interesting.  This was how I discovered The Boondock Saints.  I had never even heard of the film before and it was only later that I found out that this movie, which features a bunch of gun violence, was originally due to be released just after the Columbine shootings occurred.  Because of this the film was first delayed, then had some scenes censored, then ended up getting released for only a week in a small number of theaters.  It was only after it got released on DVD that people discovered it and the word of mouth started to spread.  And the word of mouth was so strong that it managed to get a sequel made ten years after this film was almost consigned to sit on a studio’s shelf forever.

Fraternal twin brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flannery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) are devout Irish Catholics living in the south end of Boston.  Despite being well-educated they have jobs working in a meat packing plant.  In the evenings they like hanging out at a local bar with their friends.  One evening some Russian mobsters come in telling the owner he’s going to have to shut down.  Led by the brothers, the regulars in the bar beat the crap out of the Russians and send them on their way.  It doesn’t take the Russians long to track down the brothers to kill them.

One of the great devices used by writer/director Troy Duffy is that he sets up an action scene (i.e. the confrontation in the bar) then skips right to the aftermath with the police trying to figure out what happened.  This builds anticipation for when the movie then shows us what happened at the bar and in the brother’s loft.

Local Boston cops are on the scene with two dead guys in an alley.  One of the detectives, Greenly (Bob Marley – no not that one, the other one), is running through a wild theory of what he thinks happened.  FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) lets him run down, then steps forward to give him a lesson in how to really read a scene.  There’s some good humor in the exchanges between Greenly and Smecker, with Greenly usually being wrong.

Smecker quickly assesses what happened and the cops track back to the brothers’ apartment, now minus one toilet.  We now see what happened when the Russians showed up to kill the brothers and how the two bad guys ended up dead in the alley (and what happened to the toilet.)  As it turns out, the brothers are in a local hospital getting patched up when they hear the police are looking for them.  Just as Detective Greenly is saying these two have gone to ground and will probably never be found they walk into the police station to tell the cops what happened.  No charges are filed, since it was self-defense, and the two become local heroes in the media.  Some even refer to them as saints.

That night the two of them wake up from an identical dream where the words of their priest keep running through their head.  He had given a sermon based on the adage that “all it takes for evil to happen is for good men to look the other way.”  The priest had related the real event of Catherine Genovese’s 1964 rape and murder while thirty-eight, let me repeat, thirty-freaking-eight eyewitnesses looked on from an apartment building above her and did nothing. 

Flush with their success in facing down some Russian mobsters, and with a lot of cash from having cleaned out the Russians after they were dead, they head to their local gun dealer to arm themselves.  They then head for a meeting of a Russian boss who has come into the country to yell at his underlings.  Once again we see the build up, then the aftermath as Agent Smecker analyzes what happened, and only then do we see the mayhem that went down.

The public and the media can’t get enough of someone getting rid of all the scum that has been making their city worse, but the bad guys aren’t just going to sit by and let someone kill them all off.  They arrange to have a legendary killer, Il Duce (Billy Connolly), released from prison on parole.  He is sent after the brothers (and a friend who is now helping them).  On an interesting note, Agent Smecker misreads the aftermath of this meeting and it is plain during the scene that he is starting to come unglued.  We find out the reason for this a little later in the film.  There’s another reveal about Smecker earlier in the film that is quite interesting considering the audience that this film is aimed at.

I won’t spoil what happens from this point, but in a movie about vigilantes Duffy doesn’t just take the easy route and make them undisputed heroes.  He features a number of clips of people on the street reacting to these events and there is a good balance between people who want them to continue killing bad guys and people who think they are criminals themselves.

I mentioned above that there was some good humor in the scenes with Greenly.  This is because the character was played by stand up comedian Bob Marley.  To answer the first question he gets a lot, no, he is neither related to the reggae singer, nor named after him.  He’s named after his father, as a matter of fact.  Marley is from Maine and still makes his home here when he’s not out on the road performing.  He does a lot of local benefit shows here, too.  Duffy saw Marley doing one of his routines and cast him specifically for the role of the local detective who keeps getting taken down a peg by the FBI agent.  After this film became popular, the second most common question Marley would get asked is when another Boondock Saints film would get made.

For a long time it looked like the answer was never, but finally in 2009 The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day came out.  I read that it made more on its opening day than the first film did its entire run, although that wouldn’t have been hard to do where the first one was suppressed so much.  I just watched both films back to back; the second one for the first time.  While the sequel is not as good as the first film, it’s still good enough for me to recommend if you like the first one.

Speaking of which, The Boondock Saints is an entertaining film.  It has moments of humor that do not get in the way of the story or the action.  It also has a good style about it in the way it approaches the FBI agent imagining how the scenes must have gone.  Add in some good reveals at different points and the movie kept me very engaged the entire way.  The film does earn its R rating, so if you do not like bad language or gun violence, you may not care for it.  For everyone else, I highly recommend this film.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray                 Instant Video

No comments:

Post a Comment