Review: The Boondock Saints

Published 10 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 8:29 pm,

By Brian Rentschler

1star Review:  The Boondock Saints

Short version: This movie took a half-baked idea and executed it so poorly that the end result is almost unwatchable. This is a cinematic disaster that should be avoided at all costs.

boondock Review:  The Boondock SaintsFirst, I should give you a little background. You may be wondering why I am reviewing a movie that was released in 1999. Well, what sparked my interest in it was the fact that there is another movie in theaters right now, called Overnight, about the rise and fall of Troy Duffy, the writer/director of The Boondock Saints. To make a long story short, Troy Duffy was a bartender in Boston who was plucked out of obscurity by being in the right place at the right time. His script for The Boondock Saints went into a bidding war and was ultimately picked up by Harvey Weinstein, the head of Miramax Studios. Duffy ended up with a sweetheart deal that landed him in the director’s chair. With expectations so high, it was not surprising that Duffy failed to live up to the hype. He ended up alienating the studio as well as his own friends, and Miramax dropped their interest in the film. A small independent studio called Franchise ended up making the film for a fraction of the budget Miramax had offered. Slaughtered by critics, the film ended up on video without ever seeing a wide release in theaters.

After hearing all the bad buzz about The Boondock Saints, I thought to myself, “The subject of the movie is intriguing. Surely it can’t be that bad.” So I watched it to see for myself. Yup, it was that bad. Actually, it was much worse than I expected. Nearly every noteworthy scene is blatantly ripped off from other (better) movies, mostly by Quentin Tarantino. As if that’s not bad enough, there are so many bad-movie clichés that this movie should be bookmarked as a definitive reference. Here are just a few examples:

  • FBI agents are 100 times smarter than the bumbling local cops, figure out everything (even with little or no evidence) by getting inside the killer’s head and treat everyone like crap
  • After a massive shootout with hundreds of bullets fired, there are no deaths and only a few minor wounds
  • People shot from 10 yards away die instantly, but a guy who is shot at point blank range keeps fighting
  • A murder investigation leads police to a strip club
  • Someone crawls through the building’s air ducts and falls through the ceiling into the right room
  • A dangerous assassin is paroled(!) just in time to do an important hit for a crime boss

…and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The storyline centers around Connor McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery) and his fraternal twin Murphy (Norman Reedus). They are Irishmen who live in a Boston neighborhood that is mostly controlled by the Russian mafia. Tired of being bullied, they start to form the belief that God wants them to dispose of the bad guys. Their call to action comes in the form of a sermon in which the priest talks about the indifference of good people. Not long after that, they encounter some Russians who are trying to forcefully take over a bar that they frequent. They choose to fight, and the Russians end up dead. After taking the dead Russians’ guns and money, Connor and Murphy realize that they can make a better living by disposing of bad guys than they can from the menial jobs they currently have. They end up going to the police station and telling FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) that they killed the Russians in self-defense. (They leave out the part where they took the guns and money.) Smecker lets the twins go, and they receive quite a bit of public adoration for disposing of the scumbags. Before long, the twins embark on their new “career,” and more dead bodies start piling up. Almost immediately, Agent Smecker figures out who is doing the killings, and he starts to mount a case against the twins. Things are complicated by the fact that the mob retaliates against the twins by hiring an assassin (Billy Connolly) to kill them, as well as the fact that the public appreciates what the twins (by now known as “The Saints” in the press) are doing.

This is far from an original concept (ever heard of Natural Born Killers?), but the idea is at least intriguing. The problem is, I have never seen it executed well (no pun intended). I hated Natural Born Killers, and this movie certainly didn’t raise the bar on the genre. For starters, almost every role in this movie was horribly miscast. Only Carlo Rota, who plays a crime boss, does a halfway decent acting job, and even he is over the top sometimes. Norman Reedus’ Irish accent is especially troublesome, and Willem Dafoe is so over the top that he seems to be channeling Jeremy Irons from Dungeons and Dragons. Even worse is the character of “Funny Man” (David Della Rocco). In real life, he never did any acting before (or after) this movie, and it shows. His frenzied, over-the-top hamola performance sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s really saying something considering how bad the other actors are. Note to aspiring filmmakers: If you need to cast a sleazy mob character, there are better choices than porno actor Ron Jeremy. And if you need to cast a dangerous assassin, there are better choices than comedian Billy Connolly. (Trivia alert: Another movie featuring Billy Connolly, Timeline, was also slaughtered on this site.) And finally, if you’re casting a lead role, it might be wise to think twice before you hire someone who also starred in a romantic comedy featuring a magical crab. (I only wish I were making that up.)

Without giving away any crucial details (just in case you want to see this train wreck for yourself), there were three scenes that were awful enough to deserve a special mention:

  • The scene where Agent Smecker is describing the “Armageddon firefight” that occurred
  • The scene where “Funny Man” goes along with the twins to take out some bad guys
  • The scene where Agent Smecker goes “undercover”

According to SlashFilm, the ostensibly long-awaited sequel has been greenlit. If only there were some “saints” who disposed of crappy movies…

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

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24 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. Wow. Amazing mixture of excellent actors, amateurs, and Ron Jeremy. :shock:

    Some movies must look better in screenplay form… that’s the only explanation I can come up with. Although your review leads me to believe that even the script must have stank.

    There was a bidding war over it? Willem Defoe and Billy Connolly signed for it?

    The movie industry never ceases to amaze me. :confused:


  2. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you Brian. I loved The Boondock Saints when I saw it in 94, and I love it regularly on DVD. While it’s true that you can find similarities to TBDS and other movies, you could say that about almost every movie released in the last 15 years. New art is generally derivative of old art. And how do you criticize Duffy for ripping off Tarantino without even mentioning Quentin’s lack of originality. Or Guy Ritchie’s, whose Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (among others) were obvious derivatives of other, older films. Seems unfair to judge Troy on those merits, and not others.

    Pretend you had never seen a Tarantino film while watching the film. Go into it without the pre-conceived notion that it is a rip-off. It’ll be a whole new movie. TBDS is not completely original, I’ll give you that. But it does have it’s place next to the works from which it was spawned.

    Having said all that, I’m looking forward to checking out Overnight as well. I do love a good doc-u-character-slaughter.

  3. *Typo* I meant ’99.

    Oh yeah, Willem Dafoe was superb in this. How can you not love the scene where he is scouring the crime scene in the alley, listening to music and piecing it all together…

  4. I also have to disagree. I love TBDS. I was introduced to it by my younger brother. He had heard of it from his friends. We watched it together – and sure, all those similarities you mentioned were true – why not just take the movie for what it is? Don’t go in and compare every scene to all the other movies you’ve seen. Just watch it.

  5. Were you actually watching the movie?

    Many of your comments lead me to believe you either didn’t, or you just did not understand the direction this movie took.

    They believe they have been chosen by God to eliminate evil on earth. They do not begin this quest because they can make a better living by doing so, as you suggest. Plus they don’t live in an area mostly controlled by the Russian mob…the mob has just entered the neighborhood.

    Dafoe’s treating local cops like crap is comic relief. The massive shoot-out with no deaths as well as the falling into the room can, in my opinion, stem from the fact that these brothers have been chosen by God to do this task…the movie even points out the absurdity of them landing in the middle of the Russian room…an event so unlikely it must be deemed miraculous.

    Also, forgive me if I’m mistaken, the only similarity between this movie and Natural Born Killers is that they both focus on murderers who have captured the public’s…well, hearts I guess. However, the Saints are not randomly killing, as they did in NBK, they are enforcing God’s will, at least in their own minds.

    It seems to me you have taken a very shallow perspective and are most likely bringing an atheist’s viewpoint to the movie. You are seeing these men as simple killers, when, at least in their minds, they are not killers, but saints.

  6. David,

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I still respect other people’s opinions. It’s unfortunate that some people can’t extend me the same courtesy.


  7. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen in my entire life. This is the kind of movie that you have to watch at least 3 times to catch all of the little things and completley understand what’s going on, but everytime that I watch it I love it more. It’s fantastic!

  8. After suffering through this piece of cinematic excrement barely an hour ago, it’s a relief to find a review that echoes every thought I had.

    In terms of bad-movie cliches, though, you missed the capper, the sine qua non of the genre: the bad guys who imprison the good guys, kill the minor character (i.e. not one of the leads) among them, and then, instead of killing the other two while they’re at it, decide to go off and do something else so that the heroes have a chance to escape and fight back.

    Meanwhile, for those fans of the movie, whoever you may be, here’s a suggestion for Boondock Saints II: since the “saints” are devout Roman Catholics who think they have a divine commission to kill “evildoers,” why not have the entire sequel be them waging their war against abortionists? Killing doctors and receptionists, blowing up clinics, hey, even tracking down and executing “baby-killing” women who already used the clinic’s services? Why should the Mafia be the only target of their “Godly” wrath, when the Church has, after all, condemned abortion a lot more than they ever condemned organized crime?

  9. JD,

    You and I are apparently among the very few who didn’t enjoy this movie tremendously. Different strokes for different folks, I guess…

    I remember the scene you were talking about, and that’s a classic bad movie cliché. If I had set out to list all the examples in this movie, I might still be writing the review. :lol:

    Your idea for BS: II is a good one, but are you sure it’s a good idea to attempt to inject logic into a movie like that? :wink:


  10. I whole heartedly disagree with you, but especially on one fact you mentioned. The “dangerous assassin” as you called him who was paroled just in time when a crime boss needed him wasn’t a coincidence. The mob boss’ father had extreme connections and made it happen. Did you leave the room when he was in the bathroom talking to his father about getting him out of prison to kill the brothers? Next time you review a movie how ’bout you watch it.

  11. Todd,

    As I have already said here, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I fail to see how such a disrespectful, condescending comment is warranted just because I liked the movie less than you did.


  12. This movie was by far one of the best movies I have ever seen. Parts in it made it seem like a comedy kinda like the shooting of the cat or how funny the two brothers were. I dunno maybe its just because they are Irish but its about time a movie like this came out. All in all this was a very well balanced movie. I give it 2 thumbs up.

  13. Ok first of all, I thought the movie was kick ass. I’ve had to watch it about 15 times and i’m still in love with it. The acting was so intense. To all of you who did not like this movie, you’re crazy!

  14. Hey whats up, I must begin with the fact that I did like this movie, but I am not going into why. I wanted you to know some of your mistakes in your synopsis so you could change them, as I’m assuming you’d want to.

    Which organized crime unit controlled the area of South Boston depicted was never really established; although I would imagine the Italians had more of a foothold, considering their tenure there, also the line “The Russians are buying up buildings all over” and the russians being new to american organized crime imply that they are only starting out in the area. It simply happened that the Russians came into the bar and were acting like total jerks.

    I wouldn’t imagine these boys to have ever been “bullied” and I doubt it was the sermon that got them going since the remark “I do believe the monsignor has finally got the point.” shows they believed the indifference of good men was a problem for a while. And since they awoke suddenly at the same time in jail with their eyes fixed on the ceiling and water dripping on both of their foreheads exclaiming “destroy all that which is evil” “so that which is good may flourish” probably was the “call to action.”

    Smecker knows that the killings were in self defense before he met with the twins, as he had an unseen conversation where he told bartender that.

    It takes Agent Smecker four murder scenes to figure out who it is, and is very visibly upset by his failing in the first three, and may never have found out exactly who it was had he not tripped in the bushes. Secondly, he does nothing to “mount a case” against the saints.

    The assassin was not hired by the Russian Mob, but the Italian Mafia. It would be difficult for the Russian Mob to know what was happening seeing as they never know who is shooting their syndicate bosses and underbosses.

    A murder investigation did not lead the cops and FBI to a strip club, a murder did. They only started investigating that murder after they went to the club.

    I very much doubt that the Nine guns used in the shootout where only small injuries occured fired “hundreds” of bullets as they were all handguns, some six shooters.

    I must also add that some of you who picked apart this man’s review also did not accurately represent the movie, and they would do well not to express their opinions in such a matter. Particularly Todd. You must have also left the room when the Italian Mafia Don was with the bathroom attendent. That was definitly NOT his father seeing as they have different last names, and even discuss Papa Joe’s father.

    I did not watch the movie with your review in front of me and pick it apart, I am just going off of what I remember offhand. I am not here to change your mind about this movie. I respect your opinion, but I must say that if you intend to be fair in your assessment of a movie you should not misrepresent the facts of the movie. If you do not remember the movie well enough to write a decent synopsis, then don’t, just write your opinion. If it becomes necessary to cite certain parts of the movie for your review, then make sure you get them correct.


  15. This movie Kicked ASS!!!!! I loved it I have literally watched it about 50 times. It is my favorite movie and I think Brian is a nut for thinking is sucked. I cant wait for All Saints Day to come out. I also think next time Brian wants to give harsh reviews to a movie he might want to sit down and actually watch it. Pece Out

  16. You do not know how relieved I am to find others who see how ridiculously God-awful this film is. My boyfriend and I, who heard great things about this film watched the first ten minutes of the film and could already recognize that this was one of the most pathetic action movies we have ever seen. Dreadful acting and production. I feel as if every person who says that this is a great movie, and believe me there’s many, is naive to good cinematic films. If you want to watch good action movies, watch The Professional, Kill Bill, or any other descent action movie. It is just nice to know that not everyone has submerged to the poor blockbusting cinematic taste.

  17. got to agree that it wasn’t that original and i probably would have just thought it was an ok movie if not for the scene in the courtroom.

    i watched that scene like 20 times. It was… brilliant. The scene where they pray to their friend and the killer dude (ya i dont remember names:P) is about to kill them… it was just like wow.

    so while being cheesy, it was very cool. i loved their bad acting although i wish the porno dude could have been hotter. lol. kinda gross actually.

    i loved their accents.

    Can’t wait for number 2.

  18. Hey guys, its just a movie! For all of you bashing it saying it was so fake etc. I guess you don’t like to enjoy life. Why not just sit and like something for what it is. I happen to love this movie. I don’t see the point in sitting there and picking it apart. This is why they call it entertainment, its someone who wrote a story based on what he wished he could do. If only we could get away with half the things they do in the movie..

  19. I completely disagree!!!
    that movie was AWESOME and i thought it to be a lot better then resivoir dogs and most deffinately better than pulp fiction, those made me lose interest…plus the actors were cast perfectly, becaus ethe less you know them themore you believe that they are the character…just ecause you thought the move to be bad ever think you may be one out of a million who thinks that way!?
    anyways…this movie was VERY good and your opinion of it wil completely throw others who haven’t seen it, because it is completely opposite of your description!

  20. sorry i forgot something!
    i didn’t want to sound harsh or anything, but i had a point!
    i love the movie…and i agree with todd.
    Plus, it was balck listed from american movie theaters because the columbine massacre happened 2 weeks before it’s release, so it went straigh to DVD[it's called research]
    and the people who review the movies don’t really deserve a say, because they think what they say goes, but it is up to tthe millions who watch it, and decide if they like it or not!
    and from what i have experienced it was a cult sucess! so apparently this movie bash was uncalled for because MILLIONS have already expressed a love for the movie that is twice as powerful then this oppinion of one person!