The Essentials- #83
The Boondock Saints
I remember, a long, long time ago, I was having a conversation with a guy just as in love with movies as I am. I remember both of us agreeing that "The Boondock Saints" was the best direct-to-DVD movie of all time. All these years later, I still find it hard to not put such a defining label on the film.
This is a world where direct-to-DVD films are a dime a dozen, and shoot-em-up films are a dime a dozen. We have seen a thousand times on film the same formula, movies about people disgusted by the world they live in, but too weak to do anything about it. Then something terrible happens to someone close to them and they snap, becoming vigilantes almost overnight. We have seen this time and time before, yet "The Boondock Saints" somehow made it feel fresh. "The Boondock Saints" was not just a popular movie, not just some mere cult favorite, it almost created its own counter-culture. There have been documentaries made about this movie, for crying out-loud. So what is all of this fuss over a movie about two stereotypical Irish brothers who go on a killing spree, only targeting the criminals and the corrupt of their fair city of Boston, Massachusetts?
I always love a good revenge thriller and I always love it when characters go above the law. In a world where it seems the corrupt are treating our government like its a Vegas slot machine, and criminals getting away with more blasphemies than I shake a stick at, who will rise to save us? I think this is why I identify with superhero films so much. The idea of an unknown stranger, taking up arms for the greater good really casts a spell over me. I love watching people pushed over the edge, then trying to do something about it, even if what they do is morally terrible as a result. What made "The Boondock Saints" so intriguing was its set-up. The McManus brothers (played by Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery) did not loose a relative, they did loose their homes, their girlfriends were not raped. The reason why The McManus brothers became vigilantes was because they were called upon God to do it. After a bar fight with some Russian gangsters, the brothers feel the hand of God upon them, demanding that they rip evil out of the world with their hands. That is a pretty hefty message from the Almighty, and it always affected me every time I watch this movie. The idea of God calling upon us to kill evil-doers, such a crazy cool concept for a movie.
The work by Reedus and Flannery is pretty much perfect. They have a wicked chemistry that keeps people coming back for more. They are badass, they are funny and they are quite charming. I love that they play stereotypical Irishman, but also create original personalities of their own. They anchor this movie, and it would not work without their strong performances guiding the entire thing. Director Troy Duffy found the perfect brothers in these two electrifying actors.
Then there is David Della Rocco, playing David Della Rocco. I know nothing about this guy other than his work on this franchise. I don't know if he has been a friend of Troy Duffy prior to the film. But Rocco playing Rocco has always been confusing and amazing to me at the same time. Is this guy suppose to be the real Rocco or is it a fictional version of himself? And if is not the real Rocco, how much of this character is based on this guy? Who knows and who cares, I just know that Rocco has me in tears of laughter every time I watch this. How this guy didn't end up in every comedy from 1999 to 2014 astonishes me. He has perfect comedic timing and he has all the funniest material in the movie. I have a feeling he knows that too, because he brings a certain energy to the film that is remarkable.
Oh and I absolutely can't forget Willem Dafoe, in a role that I think has helped define his entire career. Dafoe plays an FBI agent tasked with finding out who is killing all of these gangsters, only to learn of the McManus brother and ultimately allow what they are doing to happen. There is a funny and awesome scene when Dafoe shambles into a Catholic church, drunk as sailor, demanding that a priest tell him if he is right in not apprehending the brothers. It is one of the best moments in the movie simply because Dafoe is so zanily heartfelt in the sequences. I love that his character is a huge mystery throughout. Is his character gay, or bi or what? I couldn't figure it out, I just know that Dafoe was one of the highlights of the film.
There are moments of absolute hilarity and there are moments of shocking violence. I love how Troy Duffy is able to balance that material with an even hand. With all of this, I think its pretty clear why this little franchise has stood the test of time, still wow-ing us with its greatness. I hope if we do see a third film, it can match the awesome that was this first film.