By Brian Rentschler
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.
First, 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…