I have no idea why I’m torturing myself having to write about The Boondock Saints. This is a shit movie full of shit acting and shit writing. The film itself is a drunk man’s fever dream of what a movie written by Martin Scorsese and directed by Guy Ritchie would look like.
Would I rather drink paint thinner and give out handjobs to corpses rotting on the interstate than write about this film? Have I got that kind of time on my hands?
It should be mentioned that I’ve watched this film more times than I would have cared to, for a film that I truly do not like. I don’t like it, but I also don’t hate it. It could have been a good movie, decent maybe, definitely passable but it is none of those things. It is below average and finds new ways to fail at every opportunity. There are some glimmers of a better movie, but they’re merely fool’s peanuts shinning through the biggest pile of shit you’ve ever seen. And this is no ordinary shit. It is the kind of shit that comes after a prolonged illness, with a stench like that of death and medicine. It’s dark, fetid, rough, misshapen pile of excrement that no doubt sluiced out someone’s rectum.
It is a movie with inherent rewatch value simply because you truly do expect a different film each time you watch it. You think “Well, maybe this will happen instead. They must have learned their lesson by now to not do it the way they have.” All along, you were the one who should have been learning a lesson.
There’s a juvenile charm to the film. It’s not very witty or clever or anything like that. It’s barely charismatic, if at all. It’s a celebration of violent fantasies. This gets called out by the fey FBI agent played by an unhinged (if there were any other kind) Willem Dafoe. He examines a crime scene in which nothing makes sense, every kill is sloppy and proclaims that this is the result of “bad television;” that whoever committed these killings had gotten their idea from the media. They were copying something from a movie because it looked cool but it’s not what professionals do. It’s total amateur bullshit and that’s what this movie is.
It is an amateur film that is badly pretending to be something professional.
Scenes In Question: The Saints lay down their philosophy, party, and kill a cat.
The Brothers MacManus, played by Powder from Powder and Darryl from Zombies As A Metaphor For Our Daily Living, are just two working class guys from Boston with either the worst Irish or thickest Boston accents ever. One night at their favorite bar, they run afoul of some Russian mobsters but get the upper hand and win the day. However, this backfires as those mobsters seek revenge but once more escape certain death. This leads them on a path to righteous vigilantism, buttressed by two things: their Catholic faith and their common man outrage.
It’s good that they have a sense of morality rooted in their quest for “justice,” but it’s completely superficial. It’s reflected in their sanctimonious tats and wicked cool attire (black coats and sunglasses), a means to distract from a lack of real motivation other than “bad men deserve to die.” They see themselves as good men in a bad world. A world that is corrupt and fails everyone except those who can afford to get away with their crimes. And now is the time for them to take a stand and bring the wicked to their knees and make them pay for their sins.
In this clip, The Saints have just established themselves as defacto hitmen of the hitmen: independent contractors in business for themselves. This scene follows their ramshackle ambush of a suite of Russian mobsters, which was supposed to be the sweet assignment to their buddy, David Della Rocco, AKA The Funny Man, AKA This Guys Sucks At Telling Jokes, who is a low-level “package boy” for the Italian syndicate in Boston.
Long-story-short: Turns out Rocco was supposed to deliver a whacking to these goons but his boys in the Saints struck first so they go home and talk about what the Brothers have in mind for their new business venture.
Their entire philosophy is only three times longer than an elevator pitch. It’s barely a philosophy. Hardly a manifesto. It’s a letter to the editor about how bad inner city crime is from some jagoff in the suburbs.
It is the worst of the “top stories” from the evening news and the knee-jerk reactions spun from “horrified citizens” who have never set foot in an urban area in their life.
And they lay it all down in a tight 30 seconds.
But this is the boilerplate statement of the vigilante. They’re tired of society being in decline due to criminals running the show, people being scared, and the system failing to make a difference. All they want to do is make Boston great again. They’re not into creating a complex system of morals and ethics like Batman. They’re not even attempting to codify their motives as a necessary excessive element above practical law enforcement like Batman or even The Punisher. They’re two steps below Death Wish.
There’s no depth, no good cause, no value in the intersection of their words and actions. If there were, they would have confronted their friend regarding his association with known killers, as well as his assignment to lay waste to the competition. It’s never touched upon, they merely gloss over this little bit of fact. He’s off the hook, essentially. Free to gush about how awesome and amazing their ambitions are.
So instead of a serious pondering on the shift in the dynamics of their friendship now that two-thirds of the trio have positioned themselves as above the law but adjacent to the law while the remaining party of the dud sits squarely in above the law and against the law by association, they decide to party.
Pizza, beer, knives, and smokes. Just another night with the Saints! Oh, and a cat gets killed. Hilarious!
I could seriously pontificate on the ridiculousness of this film for hours. How uninspired it is, the missed opportunities, if only it had undergone excessive script-doctoring, were actually handled by a real director, whatever and everything. It’s a film that everyone sees in high school and never thinks about again for 15 years.
The violence isn’t excessive, just unnecessary. The righteousness isn’t over-simplified, just unearned. The message isn’t trite, just a complete mess and tonally disconnected from everything else in the film. There’s supposed to be a far deeper conflict brewing within the brooding brothers as their sense of morality (again, influenced by their religion) undergoes a corruption not unlike the one seen around them in the law and justice system. It’s a conflict that should build greater tension in them and between those around them, especially friends who aren’t exactly free of guilt. A better drama could have been found in this with a better writer. The two best examples of these themes are The Departed and Marvel’s Daredevil. For now, The Boondock Saints will have to settle for lesser film attempting to be better than it ever could have been.
Make no mistake, this is a severely flawed film. A deeply contrived creation of a mind concerned with only manufacturing their own legend. It’s a film that hopes you don’t think too deep about what flashes across the screen, the ideas presented, and the choices made (without much thought) by the characters.
In the end, it is still a shit movie, but a shit movie that really doesn’t care if you think it’s shit.