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
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
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 States.
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
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
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
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
- Chuck O'Leary