THE BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999) / Crime-Drama

Running Length: 110 minutes
MPAA Classification: R for strong violence, language, and sexual content.

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, Bob Marley, David Ferry
Director: Troy Duffy
Producer: Robert Fried, Chris Brinker, Mark McGarry
Screenplay: Troy Duffy

I enjoy a good cult film. Who doesn’t? They’re odd, quirky, off the beaten path. That’s how they attain their cult status. And there are some good ones out there, but sadly, The Boondock Saints is not of them, although you may have been led to believe so. See, The Boondock Saints is essentially garbage in cinematic form. It’s dumb, stale, and rotten to the core. The most positive words I can say about it are that it makes good use of a terrible premise and screenplay. I mean, really; how good can a movie about two Irish vigilantes and a gay FBI agent be? The answer is not very good at all.

First and foremost, I can’t stand how big of a following this film has. What do people see it? Is there something that I’m not getting? Understanding? I loathed this film. I absolutely detested it. I searched and searched for anything redeemable, and while there were occasions where I found a certain line or scene enjoyable, I mostly sat in despair, thinking to myself, “Why do people like this film so much?” Once you get past the shoddy direction, weak script, and wooden acting, there are still the countless technical mishaps, which are so plentiful in number that a pretty decent drinking game could be made of them. It’s really just awful in every aspect.

This is why I suspect that The Boondock Saints is loved not because it is good, but because it is so bad that it is good. It is sort of a guilty pleasure, like those really campy B-movie horror flicks from the 80s. Maybe it’s not. Maybe people actually enjoy watching this. Maybe those same people list Howie Long as one of their favorite actors. Who really knows? Better yet, who really cares? When a film maintains a critic rating of 20 percent on the Tomatometer and an audience rating of 90, who are you really gonna trust?

Yet it still manages to attract followers, which is simply beyond me. So, for those of you that don’t know what it’s about, I’ll enlighten you. The story focuses on two Irish-Catholic brothers, Conner (Flanery, TV’s “The Young and the Restless”) and Murphy (Reedus, Blade II), who kill a pair of Russian mobsters in self-defense and, because of their actions, are seen as local heroes, even by the police force. Assigned to their case is FBI Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), who, during an interview with them, discovers their motivations for doing what they did and reasons with them.

Later that night, in a holding cell, the brothers are contacted by God and are called upon to destroy the evil and the wicked that run rampant in their town. They become vigilantes, and with the help of their friend Rocco (David Della Rocco), they set out to get rid of evil in the most Catholic way possible: by shooting it full of holes and mercilessly stomping it into the ground.

Now, as I am sure I have stated before, “Tarantinoan” is a term that I like to distance myself from, but it’s obvious what the influences are here. The script by Troy Duffy resembles something that Tarantino might have written, but lacks his style or touch. The dialogue is unnatural. The pop culture references seem to written by a man who has no earthly idea what he is talking about. Jokes that were intended to be funny are not. (There’s a running gag about a senile old man named “Fuck-Ass” whose constant stuttering always results in a frustrated “Fuck! Ass!”)

The shootout scenes are so badly-written and so badly-executed that it’s just pathetic, and the scenes meant to inspire emotion left me shaking my head in disappointment. Hell, there’s even a scene where Willem Dafoe dresses up in drag and poses as a prostitute. (Yeah, there’s that scene.) And we’re talking about Willem Dafoe here. Willem freakin’ Dafoe. What was he thinking? I mean, sure, I can see why it wasn’t that bad of a decision considering the amount of money that he’s made from it, but this is just embarrassing. Not only does writer/director Troy Duffy waste Dafoe’s talent; he abuses them. He manages to make one of the finest actors of our generation look like a poor, untalented fool.

And Dafoe’s performance isn’t even the worst of the entire movie. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best. The leads, Flanery and Reedus, have terribly chemistry with one another and deliver stiff, detached performances. Never before I have seen two actors look more uncomfortable and miscast than these two. There’s Billy Connolly as the entirely irrelevant Il Duce and Carlo Rota as the loud and incomprehensible Don “Papa” Joe, but neither are as bad as David Della Rocco, who has just about the worst excuse for a performance I’ve seen since Chuck Norris’ turn in Forest Warrior. Rocco spends most of his screen time shaking, ranting, yelling, and cursing, yet never manages to make any of it seem genuine.

Listen up, fanboys. You can say whatever you like about this movie. You can try to explain to me what is so “good” about it. You can try to bring me down to your level stupidity by getting me to agree with you, but I won’t and I never will. That’s that. Trust me; I can handle a dumb movie. I can even learn to like a dumb movie. But what I can’t handle is a dumb that doesn’t know that it’s dumb, and that’s precisely what The Boondock Saints is.

Final rating: ★ (out of ★★★★)

© 2012 Stephen Earnest


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