Nothing like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some stereotypical, unrealistic, Lucky Charms-accented Irishmen, eh?
The Boondock Saints takes place in South Boston, where a pair of Irish immigrant twins, Connor and Murphy McManus (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) are living in near squalor, attending church faithfully and working in a meatpacking plant. A twist of fate lands them in a situation where they realize that they have a chance to take out society’s trash and act accordingly, believing it to be a mission from God. Special Agent Paul Smecker of the FBI is hunting the killers, believing them to be mixed up in a mafia war. The McManus brothers have a friend, Rocco, who’s a ne’er-do-well package boy for the Italian mob that begins to help them after he does nothing but royally screw himself all the way through the film. All storylines intertwine at the end, depicting a hyper-stylized version of what happens when you take “justice” into your own hands.
Let’s get it out of the way first: I never understood the hardcore Boondock Saints fans. I love the movie but mainly because it’s an over-the-top epic; entertaining, yes, but completely absurd. I lived with this guy in my dorm in college who used to draw the twins’ “VERITAS” and “AEQUITAS” tattoos on his hand, who took the film so seriously that it was almost hilarious. He also looked like a velociraptor, but that’s a story for another time. Anyways, there are a lot of people who love this movie as if it is the Holy Gospel of Irish Saintly Men Killing People. You won’t find that here.
Take for instance, Connor and Murphy McManus. These twins are devoutly Catholic, sport any number of religious tattoos and work in a meatpacking plant. Yet they also speak eight thousand languages, are well versed in fighting, guns and killing folks, and generally seem to be perfect. They’re also your stereotypical hard-drinking Irishmen.
When Agent Smecker shows up, it’s because the McManus brothers have killed two Russian mob guys who attacked them in their home. He’s paired with three of the most brainless Boston cops ever, to the point of being unbeliveable. Detective Greenlee, pictured above, theorizes that the mob guys were smushed to death walking home from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by a “huge fuckin’ guy”. If Detective Greenlee is representative of the Boston Police Force, then there must be a slew of families in Boston who have been told their family members were stomped to death by the Jolly Green Giant, smothered by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and assaulted by the Tooth Fairy. Smecker promptly schools the detectives and continues to brow-beat and deride them throughout the entire movie.
The only way this could get more cliché is if these two had donuts stuck in their claws. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Willem Dafoe remains the prime reason to see this movie. Willem Dafoe as Agent Smecker is an eccentric nutso. Dafoe swallows every scene up, masticates it and spits it back out at the audience. It’s hard to notice anything else on screen, which is why I think so many people are disappointed he’s not coming back for the sequel.
Dafoe’s Puccini-listening FBI agent who’s barely holding on to his sanity throughout the investigation reaches his prime point at the most audacious, ostentatious part of the whole shebang. The McManus brothers and their bumbling friend Rocco go after a made man who’s a “sick fuck”, only to be confronted by a hired gun named Il Duce. The Italian mob has hired Il Duce to dispose of the pesky Saints and the two sides do their damndest to blow each other away right in the middle of suburbia.
The suburban firefight is probably the most memorable part of the movie save for one scene, primarily because Willem Dafoe goes completely fucking crazy.
Watching the utter magic, no, the beauty of a crazed Willem Dafoe conducting a fake orchestra while he loses his everloving mind with the violence in the background is grade A stuff.
It’s not as magical, however, as watching Willem Dafoe dress in drag and seduce mafia dudes to go in and rescue the Saints, who have been captured by the mafia guys.
When Il Duce is released from prison solely to tackle the Saints, his release is anything but subtle:
Hello there, Billy Connolly.
What’s perverse is the ending. Il Duce turns out to be the twins’ long lost father; the three then team up with the Boston police department to take matters into their own hands and make sure a mafia don is punished ‘properly’ since it appears he will be acquitted at trial. They, of course, cannot take a quiet approach. They execute him in full view of the public at his trial.
The Boondock Saints is not an understated film. It’s loud, obnoxious and requires a tremendous sense of disbelief in many ways to buy it at all. It’s through mainly Flannery, Reedus and Dafoe’s charm and quirk that the movie sails through, something the sequel may be lacking in since Dafoe won’t be there to manage the lion’s weight on his shoulders. I don’t think that you would have had The Boondock Saints without the influence of Tarantino hanging spectral-like over the film.
For all that, the film is an enormous amount of fun, in its own way – overblown accents and gratuitous violence and all. I’ll be shocked if the sequel can measure up to the original, but you never know.
(And if you’re looking for further stuff on the making of the movie, you can watch this awesome documentary called Overnight, which is about the writer/director’s meltdown through pre-production, shooting and post-production. Strange stuff.)
Oh, and speaking of gratuitous…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.