(1999) dir. Troy Duffy
The Boondock Saints is a cult film, gained popularity via DVD/video, and somehow I never managed to see it. It was part of the “Indie” movie craze in the 1990’s, following Quentin Tarantino’s Resevoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) (and others). And I’d heard about it, that it was supposed to be pretty good, or kind of fun or what-have-you.
But for some reason, it took perhaps the release of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) and some of the media around that to bring it to my attention. Apparently, beyond the film’s own popularity and celebrity, a documentary was made about the rise and fall of Troy Duffy and the making of this film. And there you go. I got a double feature on my hands and unfortunately the sequel is not out on DVD yet so I have no way of reaching the triumverate.
The film itself, which I watched first, I actually kind of liked. It has a lot of weirdnesses and quirks, but a lot of them work or simply add to the fact that it doesn’t make absolute sense. Two Irish brothers living in Boston get into a fight with some low-level Russian gangsters and end up killing them. Empowered by the event, they decide to start killing more mobsters, taking the money and the guns and doing the work of “the righteous”. Kill only the bad guys. Vigilantes.
They team up with an Italian friend of theirs who is a lowest level gofer in one of the crime families, who joins their cause after he gets set up to die by the head of his clan. And then there is Willem Dafoe, playing a supersmart gay FBI agent who is on the trail of the bloodshed that the brothers are bringing about. But he respects their work and ultimately ends up endorsing their violence.
So the film has this dodgy take on vigilanteism, which it attempts to debunk a bit with some person-on-the-street “interviews” over the trailers, showing how people differ on the issue. Ultimately though, given the heavy Catholocism that the brothers espouse, they are deemed “saints” by the public and are austensably the heroes. So, make of that what you will.
Dafoe puts on quite a show, hamming up his character and chewing up the lines, spitting the out, even going into drag pretending to be a hooker. Duffy definitely got his money’s worth out of him.
Overall, I actually thought there was a lot of funny stuff, entertainingly put together, and only occasionally unprofessional seeming. It’s all very over-the-top, though not quite intentionally campy. You can see how it gained its popularity.
Duffy was not a film student and had never written nor directed before this film, discovered in a bar as he was, and though I’ll write more about him in my entry on Overnight (2003), I have to say he had something going on here, crazy as all the production was, the film is full of character, and despite the dodgy moral message, is actually a pretty decent flick.