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Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Boondock Saints (1999)

As if to highlight that we're dealing with Irishmen here, we start off in church in Boston on St Patrick's Day. Two men, obviously religious, mumble into their rosaries, walk up to pray at the altar and kiss the feet of the statue of Jesus. They even have matching tattoos of the Virgin Mary tattooed on their necks. Then they leave, even though the service is still running, light up their cigarettes and put on their shades, get into trouble at work and end up in a pub. They're brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus, played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus and what else they are is the point of the film.

They aren't the only two in the pub, needless to say, though it looks scarily empty for a St Patrick's Day evening in Boston. There's a barman with Tourette's, who has to hand over the bar at the end of the week. There's David Della Rocco, someone in the Italian crime syndicate, who seems to be a friend. There's Ivan Checkov, someone in the Russian crime syndicate, who seems to be a foe, wanting to take over the pub early. Next morning there are two Russian mobsters dead in the alley and flamboyantly gay FBI agent Paul Smecker gets to investigate.

On the TCM Underground series, director Jack Hill talked about cult films and how filmmakers don't make cult films, audiences make cult films. I buy into that concept to a huge degree but not entirely. There are people who revel in the idea and the fact that they want to make cult films doesn't mean that they don't succeed. The Boondock Saints is a cult film but I get the impression that's not by accident. I'm convinced that writer/director Troy Duffy had exactly that aim in mind and what he really achieved has a lot to do with perspective.

To my perspective there's good and bad, though not a whole heck of a lot of good. There are some really great lines for sure, but some really bad ones too. Willem Dafoe also has a field day in a gift of a part, and so do Billy Connolly and Ron Jeremy of all people, though unfortunately neither appear for long. I could have watched both of them for hours, but the MacManus brothers are just annoying badly written pains in the ass. There's so much slow motion used that I don't want to see any in another film for another decade. I'm sure it's all supposed to look cool but it's just really tired and tedious, nearly as much so as the fadeout effect from scene to scene that's also overused to a painful degree. There's a hip soundtrack that had me almost turning the sound off and switching to subtitles. There's a huge amount of annoying constant camera movement that isn't enough to be handheld but way too much to be clean and artistic. Given that there are scenes with great camerawork later on, it has to mean either the cinematographer got changed partway through filming or the idiot thought it was cool.

Then there's the whole premise of the story. The entire film hinges on the fact that a couple of Irish kids from Boston speak Russian and have the same dream at the same time. They're seen as saints in the papers and are obviously meant to be seen that way by Troy Duffy but they're really just arrogant kids having a ball. They're supposedly religious but they run round killing anyone that they feel like. They're supposedly decent people, less evil than those they slaughter, which is a manifesto but a highly dubious one (and one from which Duffy wimped out on with what he put in over the end credits). They also get their arms from the IRA, which makes this entire film completely offensive to anyone from my country, which is stunning given that the script is full of racial slurs yet none are anti-British. The fact that the biggest racial slur isn't even deliberate says plenty for the ineptitude of the filmmakers.

Is this a cult classic? I don't think so. I think it's something that twelve year olds think is cool and they haven't a clue why. They think it's cool because there are guns and drugs and swearing and cool dialogue. It's Tarantino without any talent. If Eric Cartman was an Irish filmmaker, this is what he'd have come up with. Oh dear.

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