The Boondock Saints Review

You have to empathise with Troy Duffy, writer/director of The Boondock Saints. His first attempt at a movie screenplay somehow found its way to Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax Studios, who loved it so much he bought it for a reported $450,000, even giving Duffy directorial control. Also, Duffy's band were given permission to do the soundtrack and offered a contract. Major names were banded about the production - Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Stephen Dorff, Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg. The movie would be shot in Boston and as icing on the cake Miramax would buy 'J. Sloane's', the bar where Duffy was currently working, and give Duffy partial ownership. Duffy was suddenly living in the clouds. Paramount Pictures agreed to buy Duffy's next two scripts for $500,000; and even a 'Brood' record deal looked promising. Almost overnight, Duffy had been given a big break in the film, music and bar industry. However, these stories don't usually follow the 'happy-Hollywood' path. Miramax and Duffy couldn't agree on casting, which resulted in the studio finally dropping the project, and therefore 'J. Sloanes's'. Even Duffy's band never received their record deal. Fortunately for Duffy, the screenplay found its way to the screen, albeit via a more low-budget mode of transport in indie-studio Franchise Films.

Two Irish brothers in a local Boston community, Connor & Murphy McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus), inadvertently become the "saints" of the neighbourhood by killing some small-time Russian Mafia men. Realising how easy it is to kill evil men, the brothers decide to 'help' the city by ruthlessly killing all of the major criminals in Boston. Ferociously tailed by the brilliant Det. Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), the brothers realise that the hypocrisy of society plays a heavy element in their having to run from the law. Meanwhile, Smecker himself realises that these boys may in fact be doing society a very big favour.

The Boondock Saints is a mixed bag of juicy apples and rotten bananas. There are sequences when the visually frenetic style of director Troy Duffy elevates the film to a classier status, and yet there are other sequences when the film is worse than TV Movie fare. Maybe this is because the film is so confused. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a Tarantino-esque black comedy, or a serious drama dealing with religious tinted vigilantism. Anyhow, vigilantism was dealt with in a much more convincing manner in the classic TaxiDriver or Magnum Force, and The Boondock Saints certainly offers nothing new on the subject. By the closing credits, which features staged interviews with members of the public commenting on their views on vigilantes, the film has deviated to such a far off destination from its original purpose that you have to question if somehow the film switched with another half way through watching it.

You can almost feel the director's appreciation of Willem Dafoe in The Boondock Saints. Here is a fantastic actor, who has portrayed both Max Schreck and Jesus Christ in previous films, confined to playing a brilliant homicide detective whose camp eccentricity seems lifted straight out of sixties Batman. In fact, it's almost as if the director has expanded Dafoe's part, since he single-handedly scores all of the film's point score and is the only actor worth watching. Tarantino likes to turn narrative structures on their head in order to shape the outline of the plot. Guy Ritchie presents every point of view, at the effect of providing comedy to the audience. In The Boondock Saints, director Duffy tries a gimmick in which he shows Det. Smecker's investigations first, and the brothers' crimes which happened first are shown afterwards. This is a clever ploy to impress the audience with Smecker's abilities, and to give structural padding to the character. Don't be fooled by the cover advertising the appearance of Billy Connelly, as the manic Scotsman only turns up after the audience has given up caring, and even he is terribly underused.

Pointing out that a film isn't very good sometimes masks its apparent worthiness. The Boondock Saints certainly is an enjoyable exercise in the gratuity of violence, and to say it has a legion of appreciating fans is slightly underestimating the scale. Even so, you cannot help but feel that with a bigger budget and tighter script work the film could have worked on many more levels. What results is a poor man's Sleepers, which wasn't exactly a cinematic classic in itself. Even so, if this is Duffy's first effort, then at least it's a promise of better things to come.

Although the packaging states the transfer to be letterboxed widescreen 1.85:1, the transfer is in fact 2.35:1, and unfortunately isn't anamorphic. However, the transfer is actually very good, with a nice saturation of colours and a decent lack of grain or dirt. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to notice if the transfer was anamorphic or not, even if the focus is a little soft.

Presented in 2.0 stereo, the mix is very good and knows it limitations, with a few channel sound effects and dialogue mostly confined to the inner-well.

Menu: A decent animated menu that concentrates on the newsworthy aspects of the story, and feels like a TV new bulletin.

Packaging: Standard fare amaray packaging, with a slightly cheap style of lettering that seems to represent TV movies released on DVD.


Synopsis: A good textual synopsis of the entire film.

Cast & Crew: Some good cast and crew biographies, and very detailed. Presented as text on screen.

Original Theatrical Trailer: Even the trailer feels like the standard straight-to-video release trailer.

It's a cult film, and so will only appeal to a certain minority audience, but despite this The Boondock Saints has a few things going for it, even if it ultimately is a very flawed example of a violent satire. This is the Canadian release version, as the US version, which was set to be anamorphic, contain deleted scenes and feature a commentary, has been postponed to an unconfirmed later date. Therefore, any serious fan of the film would be better off waiting for that release.

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