Have you heard of The Boondock Saints? Many people haven’t and it’s one of those films that completely divide those who see it. You either love it or you hate it, rarely does it leave people on a middle ground. If you have heard of it, it’s likely because you saw it on home video. The movie received an extremely limited release (it was shown in five theatres for a week), and it never really garnered much attention, until it was released on home video that is. Since then, it has become one of the biggest cult films of the past two decades.
The Boondock Saints had a troubled production history, partly due to director Troy Duffy and partly due to Hollywood politics. The history of the film is actually quite interesting and is documented fantastically in a film called Overnight. Simply put, the film could have had a successful theatrical run and Troy Duffy likely could have gone on to make more films. It’s a story for another time but Duffy is a prime example of what not to do in Hollywood.
Anyways, due to the complete lack of a theatrical release, the film wasn’t really seen until it hit home video. When it did, people did more than just see it. It became an overnight phenomenon and instantly gained cult status. The popularity of The Boondock Saints rose tremendously and it grew so big that it warranted a sequel, which came out back in 2009.
Now, 10 years later, we have The Boondock Saints: Truth and Justice Special Edition Blu-Ray, a 10th anniversary edition of sorts commemorating the film. For fans of the film like myself, it feels like Christmas and when the disc arrived in the mail, I felt like a young boy waking up on December 25th. As I popped the disc into my player I was eager to see how the film held up all these years later. Is it still a bonafide cult classic, or just a forgotten fad?
Set in Boston, The Boondock Saints follows two Irish brothers, Conor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus. After an encounter with the Russian mafia that leaves the brothers resorting to murder in self defence, they decide to turn themselves into the police. Due to the fact that it was self defence, the boys are let go.
Shortly after, newspapers dub them The Boondock Saints and after a revelation of sorts, Conor and Murphy decide to go down the vigilante route. They set out to clean up Boston and get rid of all the crime and evil that litters the city. As they say, it is their God given duty to “destroy that which is evil so that which is good may flourish.”
As the boys start to leave a trail of dead bodies behind them, FBI Special Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) has no doubt as to who the city’s new vigilantes are and he is hot on their trail as he vows to stop at nothing to bring their vigilantism to a halt. As he closes in on Boston’s newest crime fighting duo, the brothers continue their work, hoping to make it all the way to the top by taking down mob boss “Papa Joe” Yakavetta (Carlo Rota). Of course, that won’t be easy as the mob is ready for them and has their own plans in store for the twins that come in the form of an assassin (Billy Connoly).
It’s hard to say that The Boondock Saints is original and not full of cliches. If I tried to claim either I’d be lying to you. What I can say though is that this is one hell of an entertaining ride and a damn fun film that I can watch over and over. The idea is still intriguing despite being unoriginal and though it has its flaws, in a word, The Boondock Saints is brilliant.
Director Troy Duffy executes his witty and testosterone charged script very effectively with one of the most interesting things being that we never actually see the brothers doing their work. Meaning, we never actually see the crimes taking place. Instead, what we see is the brothers preparing for their crime and then we cut to the next day and see Agent Smecker at the crime scene, superimposed over the action describing what he thinks went on, all while we see it playing out on screen. It’s a neat technique and though not entirely original, it’s still pulled off very well.
Moments like these are where the film’s brilliance shines through and where Duffy shows true promise as a filmmaker. It’s a shame he became a case study of how not to play your cards in Hollywood because he could have had a great career. It’s clear that he possesses great enthusiasm for his film and his visually kinetic filming makes for a terrifically entertaining movie.
Duffy’s script, although it shows errors of a first time writer, is still quite strong and tackles touchy issues that most first timers would steer clear of. His writing tries to be both funny, insightful and violent which surprisingly results in something quite remarkable. He could be criticized for taking the whole thing too seriously at times, or for falling too far into the ugly realm of naive and self-conscious filmmaking but overall, this is a tremendously strong directorial debut.
Paired with Duffy’s direction are some fantastic performances. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus craft two of my favorite film characters of all time with the MacManus brothers. They’re perfectly cast and they both nail their roles. Often funny, always captivating and completely believable, Flanery and Reedus are absolutely great here.
Speaking of perfectly cast, has Willem Defoe ever given a better performance? He acts the hell out of the role and is a joy to watch. His character has some problems that stem from a bit of poor writing but that’s not Defoe’s fault. He’s at the top of his game here and literally gives it his all.
Ultimately, The Boondock Saints is a damn good film, not for the same reasons that something like The Social Network is a damn good film, but it’s brilliant in its own unique kind of way. I love this movie and always have since I first saw it. It’s just one of those films that is so damn enjoyable you’d be foolish not to give it a chance. While the film is not without problems, if you consider that this is Duffy’s first film and he went through hell to get it made, you’ll begin to see just how impressive it really is.
For a catalogue release of a film this old, the movie looks as good as it can. Strong detail mixed with well balanced black levels and natural fleshtones are the transfer’s strongest points and while they are both done well, there are a number of negatives here. Soft shots do appear a bit too often and the amount of grain is a bit much. Edge enhancement shows up a bit and there are also a few print defects. Remember though, a lot of the errors here can be attributed to the source, not the actual transfer. It may not be the greatest looking Blu-Ray, but it’s the best that the film is ever going to look.
Lively dynamics fill the audio track which, like the video, is also well done with only a few minor errors. Action scenes come to life with the whizzing of bullets and the barrage of gunfire. Ambiance fills the room appropriately and the soundtrack comes through with clarity and defined bass. Surrounds are used pretty frequently and while this isn’t as agressive of a track as one would expect, it’s still pretty exciting.
Special features on the other hand are somewhat disappointing, especially for a 10th anniversary edition. We do get a director’s cut but it’s basically identical to the theatrical version. In terms of extras, we get the following.
- Audio Commentaries, one From Writer/director Troy Duffy and one from star Billy Connoly: Duffy’s commentary is a bit dry at times but it’s still always nice to hear from him. He comes off as a bit egotistical and full of himself but he does share some interesting stories about the production and he’s worth listening to. Connoly’s commentary is a bit more lively and fun but still doesn’t feel like the definitive Boondock Saints commentary that we need.
- The Boondock Saints – The Film and the Phenomenon: An interesting retrospective that features Troy Duffy, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and David Della Rocco. The gang sits down for a half an hour and discusses the film and its troubled production as well as its immense success on home video.
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
The Boondock Saints is one of my favorites. It manages to entertain me everytime I watch it and it’s really a shame that Duffy’s career never took off. It’s a great film and while the Blu-Ray itself is a bit of a disappointment, if you’re going to buy it, this is the edition to get. If you’ve already seen the film then you no doubt have your opinion on it and I likely won’t change that. But if you haven’t seen it yet, and chances are pretty high that you haven’t, then check it out. It’s an excellent crime/action film with some really good performances and a whole lot of excitement.
Be sure to check out our interview with director Troy Duffy.
The Boondock Saints is an incredibly fun film to watch and it still holds up after all these years.