guppy's film reviews

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Boondock Saints, The

Year: 1999
Director:Troy Duffy
Notable Actors: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery
Score: B
Summary: A decent but severely overrated vigilante flick.


It's often said that no one is lukewarm about The Boondock Saints -- you either love it or hate it. For many people this is the case; I'm not one of them. I think it's a watchable film, even an enjoyable one, but in my opinion the firestorm on both sides is unwarranted.

The basic premise is fairly simple. Two brothers, Connor and Murphy McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, respectively), kill a couple of Russian mafiosos in a fight they didn't start. After being let off the hook for the murders, they decide that their calling is to embark on a spree of vigilante justice. Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is assigned to track down the McManus brothers after the local authorities fail to do so; however, as he investigates the trail of bodies, he struggles to decide whether or not what the brothers are doing is wrong.

The end product is an enjoyable watch, but far from the messiah of filmmaking it's sometimes made out to be. The movie was shot on a budget of about $7 million, and Willem Dafoe is really the only big name involved. The acting is somewhat inconsistent, but overall it's not hard to become immersed.

The acting is only part of the story, though. Good actors can only do so much if the script and the directing aren't up to par, and both have their weak moments. The infamous line, "There was a firefight!" is one of the most absurdly delivered lines I've ever seen. The line itself is no great shakes anyway (unless you're asking one of Boondock's many defenders), and Duffy has Dafoe deliver it in the hammiest, most ridiculous way I can imagine. No one really talks that way.

Another popular reference is a recurring racist joke. The joke isn't really particularly funny, it doesn't get any better when it's told more than once, and there isn't much reason for it to be there in the first place.

There are a few more well-known points that I think are overemphasized by Boondock's fans, but there's no need to go through and list them all.

What Boondock does have going for it is its action scenes. Mostly very violent, the shootings and gunfights are flashy and attention-grabbing; they recycle a lot of recently popularized techniques, but that really only matters to film snobs, not the general public. It's also got a recurring device or two that works well, most notably the brothers' now-famous prayer.

Boondock hasn't always had an easy time of it. It was pulled from theaters almost immediately after release in the wake of the Columbine school shootings, though I can't for the life of me figure out why, as all it really has in common with the shootings is the involvement of guns; it was only on DVD that it made its resurgence.

Many people really, really like The Boondock Saints. I'm not telling them they shouldn't enjoy it, and I'm not telling them that it's a bad movie. But several people have told me that it's the best film they've ever seen, and I think that either this is not a rational opinion for them to hold, or that they haven't seen very many good movies. Boondock is an enjoyable popcorn flick, but I don't get the obsession with it.


  • very fair! you manage to tackle a tough film very well. Your points (both for and against) are well thought out and made - its reasuring to find someone else who doesn't fit into the 2 polar extrems!

    nb/ check out "Overnight" - a cracking documentary that tells the behind the scenes story of the film, its... interesting!

    By Anonymous BranTheBuilder, at 10:21 AM  

  • Good review. I've never watched this, for reasons that you stated: When the movie is brought up in conversations, I am able to avoid taking place in the inevitable arguments about it.

    I may have to go watch it now.

    By Anonymous kastor, at 2:45 PM  

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