In preparation for the imminent release of the sequel (10/30), the Babblers hit the living room box office this weekend to return to director Troy Duffy’s instant classic, Boondock Saints. Jeff and I were already well acquainted in the McManus brothers, Connor (Sean Patrick Flannery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus), but this was Johnny’s introduction to the movie that gave vigilantism an Irish accent.
Despite its being released in 1999, I had never heard of this movie when I saw the DVD case lying on a friend’s bookshelf in 2005. I asked him what it was about and he, incredulous that I knew absolutely nothing about it, shook his head and said, “I don’t even want to ruin the surprise.” Well, it’s 10 years old now, and the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired!
Set in Boston, the film revolves around the aforementioned McManus brothers and the extraordinary circumstances in which they find themselves. When a bar brawl involving the brothers leaves a couple of Russian mobsters (bent on closing the bar) with some rather unfortunate, embarrassing injuries, Connor and Murphy are forced to defend themselves from the bandaged, revenge-seeking Russians with the clever application of gravity and a commode, with fatal results. Investigating the ensuing crime scene is FBI agent Smecker, brilliantly played by Willem Dafoe.
Found innocent of any wrongdoing, the brothers then take to the streets with a little inside information and a lot of guns, determined to do what the law cannot – to take out the bad guys permanently. Described in the local newspapers as angels, they adopt the roles of those divine messengers, and the message they bring is “Death to the corrupt.” As they move from scene to scene, executing those whom they see fit, they firmly believe that they act with the blessing of and as the hand of God. Agent Smecker follows their trail of blood, unable to see how the crime scenes are related and who is responsible for them.
Boondock Saints, though visually dated (Smecker is shown wearing a Discman in an early scene), still brings several tasty dishes to the table. The non-linear storytelling is my favorite. It’s not quite as brilliant as Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, but neither is it as staccato. The film is generally forward-moving, but incorporates flashbacks seamlessly into the sequences of events. Every time you’re about to think, “How did they get there? What happened?”, director Duffy jumps backward just long enough to tell that story. He engages the viewers’ imagination and cognition, and forces them to think about what’s going on behind the scenes.
The characters of Boondock Saints make for great cinema. The brothers McManus are funny, serious, tough, scrappy, faith-driven, and, for lack of any better descriptor, unapologetically Irish. (Well, Hollywood Irish.) They take their hits and give as good as they get, even when they fight one another. The chemistry between the actors lends credence their characters; they really do act like two brothers who love each other. And, though I cannot comment on it personally, a female friend who joined us for this screening made note several times throughout the movie that Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus in tight jeans are reason enough to watch this film.
As good (and apparently attractive) as Flannery and Reedus are, they couldn’t match Dafoe for his dramatic, operatic turn as Agent Smecker. Had the McManus brothers only known of Dafoe’s crime, they might have turned their attention on him for stealing absolutely every scene he was in! In the middle of a crime scene, Dafoe tunes out the world and loses himself to the arias of investigation and forensics. He dances through the scenes, recreating the acts of destruction as though he fired every bullet himself. The construction and execution of these scenes are fabulous. For these few scenes alone, I regret not seeing this in the theaters!
Boondock Saints is part action, part social commentary, and all awesome. It gets 4 out of 5 Babbles.