The Boondock Saints
Two Irishmen, a Scotsman and six guns walk into a barfight…
Sometimes, it’s hard to know how serious a movie’s actually being. Was that cheesy one-liner a knowing wink in your direction, or was that the actor ‘emoting’? It’s an important thing to judge, since it can make the difference between a terrible movie and a hilarious one. Look at Shoot Em Up: everyone thought that was Serious Business and called it accordingly. Those of us who were actually in on the joke thought it was the most hilarious film ever and had a blast. So that puts The Boondock Saints in an awkward position. Shoot Em Up aims for audacity from the word go, while Boondock Saints…
Our heroes are twin brothers, Conner and Murphey MacManus who, if you couldn’t guess from the name, are as Oirish as Irish can be. Every time they appear at the beginning, there’s cheesy stereotypical Riverdance-style music, just to hammer the point home. After celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (of course) with a good old, home cooked barfight, the losers, a group of Russian mafiosos, track them down to their stylish hovel and get revenge on them. They’re forced to kill the mobsters in self-defence and hand themselves in to the police, where someone leaks their names for… some reason, and they quickly become minor celebrities, being dubbed the Saints. The pair have an epiphany of some description (again, not really described well) and decide that if killing two mobsters makes people like them lots, killing tons of mobsters will make people like them even more! And with this kind of excellent logic, the film proper begins.
At first, it’s hard to know where the film is going. With the constant background presence of the various mafia groups, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in for another grim and gritty crime drama, something with the moral ‘vengeance for its own sake never works’. But as you watch, things don’t quite pan out the way you expect. Ron Jeremy appears as a minion, with a… memorable scene in a porn shop. The action sequences get progressively more and more silly. And then Willem Defoe comes along and completely blows any and all pretences of this being a serious work out the water.
Y’see, Dafoe is easily the single best thing in this entire movie. Mainly because he’s the only one who seems to have grasped how entirely ludicrous the whole exercise is, and is intent on having as much fun with it as possible. So while everyone else is taking the film fairly seriously, he’s busy chewing up the scenery as a gay FBI agent, cheerfully sending it up left and right. By the time he starts describing (and enacting) the gunfight between the brothers and Billy Connelly, here playing a mob hitman by the name of Il Duche, a cigar the size of a small canoe wedged in his mouth the entire time, you’ve either turned the film off or you’re on the floor in stitches. The man makes the movie, and if it weren’t for him, it really wouldn’t be anything more than a bland, somewhat confused action movie. Even seeing him in painfully unconvincing drag doesn’t kill the movie, and that’s definitely something.
The ending loses all momentum, being a boring statement of intent that opens the door for a sequel (tl;dr “We’re gonna shoot this guy in the head now and you’re the lucky folks who get to see it! Tell the kids!”), Irish accents breaking badly every few seconds, which is a shame (and a little painful). If it had more courage of its convictions, it could’ve powered through and turned even that into something good. Even still, if you’re able to get the joke, this is a surprisingly good film once you get past the beginning. Just… someone tell Dafoe he shouldn’t have his legs apart when lying down wearing a skirt? Please?