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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Comedy > The Boondock Saints (Unrated Special Edition DVD Set)

The Boondock Saints (Unrated Special Edition)


Picture: B   Sound: B   Extras: B-   Film: C+



The Boondock Saints is one of those movies where the story behind the making of it is far more interesting than the film itself.  Whether or not you like The Boondock Saints, you owe it to yourself to see a 2003 documentary entitled Overnight, which chronicles the fast rise and fast fall of Boondock Saints writer-director Troy Duffy.


Back in 1997, Miramax and New Line Cinema entered into a bidding war over Duffy's script of The Boondock Saints.  Despite being his first screenplay, both studios were convinced The Boondock Saints was going to be the next Pulp Fiction, and writer-director Duffy the next Quentin Tarantino.


Miramax won the bidding war, offering novice Duffy the chance to direct his own script at a budget of $15 million.  Miramax head honcho Harvey Weinstein was reportedly so gung ho about The Boondock Saints that he even offered to buy Duffy the Los Angeles bar where Duffy worked as a bartender.  Duffy had the type of deal every young filmmaker dreams about, and was already considered the next big thing without having shot a frame of film.


As fate would have it, though, Duffy's ego turned out to be as big as Weinstein's.  Before long, Duffy was burning bridges and managed to alienate Weinstein and Miramax to the point where they scrapped the idea of making The Boondock Saints, figuring Duffy wasn't worth the headache.


After the script was put into turnaround by Miramax, it was picked up by a then upstart independent production company called Franchise Pictures -- later notorious for their shady business dealings.  Filming was soon underway with Duffy directing, but Franchise cut the production budget in half.


When filming was completed, Duffy was convinced he'd made a masterpiece, but outside influences from the real world prevented the film from ever getting a wide release in the United StatesThe Boondock Saints, you see, is a film filled with stylized ultraviolence and scenes of people being brutally shot in slow motion.  Then, in April of 1999, the massacre at Columbine High School occurred, and suddenly everyone was criticizing gratuitously violent movies.  As a result, nobody wanted to distribute The Boondock Saints.


As Duffy continued to alienate even close friends as his hopes of becoming the next Tarantino went up in flames, the film was given a very limited theatrical release in just 5 theaters in January, 2000, before eventually getting sent to video, where it became a surprise hit and gained a loyal cult following.  It continued to sell well on DVD, and for a while, a sequel was rumored.  Nothing, though, came to fruition, and Duffy has yet to make another film.  Not since James William Guercio on Electra Glide in Blue (1973) has a supposed wunderkind disappeared so quickly.


Which finally brings us to The Boondock Saints itself, which Fox has released a second time on DVD as a two-disc unrated special edition.  The new unrated version should please the film's fans since it contains a few shots of spurting blood that Duffy was forced to cut from his R-rated theatrical cut, but R-rated or unrated, I can't overcome my mixed feelings toward the film.  Yes, it does often succeed on a purely visceral level, but Duffy borrows so heavily from other filmmakers, and his continual portrayal of brutal violence as an adrenaline rush is as problematic as his two main characters using religious righteousness as an excuse to kill anyone they deem evil -- isn't this exactly what's causing most of the trouble in the world right now?


Definitely an exercise in style over substance, The Boondock Saints takes place in an exaggerated Boston underworld that feels like a melding between the worlds of Tarantino and John Woo.  It concerns two Irish-Catholic fraternal twins named the MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) who get on the wrong side of some Russian gangsters.  The MacManus boys end up killing a couple of the Russians in self defense, but feel they did a good deed ridding society of such criminal scumbags.  They then become Charles Bronson-style vigilantes, acting as judge, jury and executioner to a bunch of Boston underworld figures.  A double-crossed Italian gangster (David Della Rocco), who's a real loose cannon, joins them in their crusade to wipe out the Boston underworld as an arrogant, openly gay police detective (Willem Dafoe in a flamboyant performance) investigates.


Billy Connolly appears later in the film as a lethal hit man who's chained in prison like he's Hannibal Lecter, but is somehow let loose from custody to put a stop to the MacManus' rampage.  As I said, this film exists it its own stylized, ultraviolent little universe where all logic from the real world is completely ignored.  But in addition to the lack of logic in plotting, The Boondock Saints is a mess from a moral standpoint.  The MacManus brothers pride themselves in killing only evil people who prey on the innocent, but what about when their Italian buddy kills an innocent bartender in cold blood?  This mortal sin committed by their buddy is conveniently overlooked.  If the MacManus brothers were sincere about their own moral code, wouldn't this make their buddy deserving of execution?  But we're obviously not supposed to ponder such matters, and just enjoy the graphic gunplay and constant barrage of "F" words.


If you can accept The Boondock Saints simply on the terms of a highly-stylized, graphically-violent cartoon, you'll likely enjoy it more than I did.


Fox's new Unrated Special Edition is definitely an improvement over the old DVD in terms of picture and sound, but it doesn't add much in terms of extras.  The new anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer has been digitally remastered by THX with 5.1 Dolby Digital EX Surround Sound.  This is probably the best The Boondock Saints ever looked and sounded to most American audiences, unless you were lucky enough to see it at the 5 theaters where it briefly played in the U.S. or saw it theatrically overseas.  Frustratingly, the previous Region 1 DVD of the film was letterboxed, but non-anamorphic.  On disc one the extras include a feature-length audio commentary by Duffy, who's clearly too impressed with himself, and a separate audio commentary by Billy Connolly, who gushes about the film so much you'd think he were talking about Citizen Kane.  The extras on disc two include a printable script, filmographies and the same theatrical trailer, outtakes, and deleted scenes included on the previous edition.



- Chuck O'Leary


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