Sunday, June 24, 2007

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999) Movie Review


On Saint Patrick's Day, in a South Boston bar, two Irish brothers, Connor and Murphy, are having a few rounds with their friends, when a few Russian mafia soldiers step in and threaten the good time. The next morning, FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is brought in to investigate two dead Russian mafia soldiers found in an alley. As he makes his way through the evidence, almost clairvoyantly piecing together what happened, he is unaware that Connor and Murphy, who until the previous night were just meat packers, have taken the spontaneous barfight as a message from God, to begin a vengeful elimination of the evil men in the world, starting with Boston's criminal underground.

With help from their friend Rocco, a low level delivery boy in the Italian mob who has just been betrayed by his boss, the two brothers begin to target the higher-ups. Italain boss Poppa Joe, who now fears for his life, calls in Il Duce (Scottish comedian Billy Connolly in a chilling reverse typecast) a merciless killer who has just been released from jail to eliminate the two brothers. All the while, Smecker, who has finally figured out who his mysterious killers are, becomes torn between upholding the law or standing aside to let the two brothers continue to purge the city of villains.

Seven years before Martin Scorcese took a baseball bat to the kneecaps of South Boston's ethnic organized crime syndicates, an unknown writer and director, Troy Duffy, gave it a few good pistol whips with this debut film (and at the time of this writing, his only movie). Unfortunately, as the film was being prepared to be released, two brats in Colorado decided it would be a good idea to storm their school armed to their teeth with guns. In the ensuing aftermath, THE BOONDOCK SAINTS was practically shelved due to its graphic violence and vengeful themes. The film was released quietly on a few screens, and then dumped onto DVD almost three years later. For lesser films, this would be its final death toll. However, great films will find their audience no matter the circumstances, and after several years of churning in the waters and building up word-of-mouth, this movie has found its embracing audience.

Troy Duffy, along with some helpful flare from b-movie cinematographer Adam Kane, brings to life some unusual characters in some very unusual circumstances, which play out in a stylish and non-linear timeline, that seems new and exciting even in the midst of the "Tarantino-influenced" 90's crime-action movie glut. Much of this credit though is due, not from the time-jumping itself, but from the performance from supporting actor Willem Dafoe, whose FBI character Smecker is tracking the citywide crime syndicate slayings. The movie follows a back and forth pattern, as it chronicles the two brothers up until just before they begin their rampage. Time then jumps forward to the aftermath, where Smecker deduces what he believes has happened. It then jumps back in time and divulges what actually happened. It is an interesting timeframe setup, made all the more enjoyable by Dafoe, whose already off-kilter Smecker slowly creeps into absurdity as he attempts to piece together the increasingly bizarre crime scene.

While Dafoe does steal the show here, the two main heroes, Connor and Murphy, played by Sean Patrick Flanery (of THE ADVENTURES OF YOUNG INDIANA JONES fame) and Norman Reedus pull off a commendable job as the two lovable, multi-lingual Catholic killers, who eloquently quote the bible scripture, Irish family prayers they are given, and portray a brotherly love and bond that most siblings would be jealous of. Their devilish good looks may also get some of the more squeamish female viewers through the graphic violence, which delivers in spades. The rest of the cast is pulled right out of every other mob movie made in the past twenty years. They know their lot in movie acting and do a fine job a cannon fodder. Also, keep an eye out for the Hedgehog himself, Ron Jeremy, in a brief cameo.

Beneath the surface layer of the brutal, yet somehow beautiful, action and the splattering of blood that is the very essence and base for the argument against glorified violence, lies an even more dangerous open-ended question that will be inescapable for even the most casual viewer of the film - can there be justifiable homicide? Wrath, being your reviewer's favorite sin, and the judgment of God plays a key role in the brothers' decision to do what they do, and when a loose code of honor is created amongst the two to murder only bad guys, it creates an additional layer of questioning. The film is smart in that it does not try to answer the question, and even puts doubt within Connor and Murphy even as they release soul after soul to the afterlife. In a post-script to the film, under the closing credits, passer-bys on the street are asked what they think of the media dubbed Saints, which range from placing them on pedestals to condemning them to damnation. Within the film broad strokes are made for both sides of the argument, and it'll be up to you to put the fine touches on the canvas.


cauta-blog said...

Epic movie!

Kinofan said...

I love this movie. Its funny, bloody and irish. A must-see!

spelling bees said...

worth to see this just for the irish touch. The accent, the cold blood, the black humor the plot are perfect. One of the few best !

Imran said...

This is a film that you will either like because you pick out the good parts or hate because you simply can't get past the bad parts. I couldn't get past the bad parts. For starters, the film is very improbable as well as unrealistic with too many silly elements that do not at all mesh with the very serious and dramatic tone maintained throughout. Because the film doesn't contain the necessary parts of a satire it can't be argued that it was meant to be one. In the end, the movie ends up being 2 hours of outlandish violence and very irritating characters that received way too much screen time. I found myself wanting to fast forward any scene containing the minor character Rocco. And the 5 minute flaky detective scenes where he is singing to opera music and dressing in drag was just too senseless and foolish for me to stomach.

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