Troy Duffy / USA / 1999 / 106 mins
Available on Blu-Ray
This cult crime drama follows two ordinary Boston brothers, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus), who after inadvertently killing a pair of Russian gangsters decide to become vigilantes targeting the Russian and Italian gangsters in their city. Hot on their trail is eccentric FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), who becomes increasingly convinced that the brothers are responsible for the murders that he is called on to investigate.
The central concept is hard to take seriously, with the audience expected to believe that two inexperienced Irish American meat-packers can be multilingual adept assassins with easy access to a weapons cache. What doesn’t help matters is that director/screenwriter Duffy whitewashes and sentimentalises their activities, making heavy use of their Catholicism as well as the occasional scene showing them being nice to kids as a way of separating them from their mafia targets.
As a director, Duffy is able to handle the film’s action well enough, even if the multiple slow-motion shootouts owe a lot to the films of the then-popular John Woo. However, in other areas, his inexperience is evident, which can be seen in his overuse of fade-to-black that provide the film with an amateurish student film feel – this is despite the A-list cast including Dafoe and Billy Connolly (!) as convicted killer Il Duce.
Both Dafoe and Connolly provide the only high points of the film. Dafoe imbues his agent with an offbeat charm in his opening scene where he chills out to opera at a crime scene, whilst Connolly convincingly plays against type as a feared contract killer by displaying little of his trademark humour despite his role amounting to little more than an extended cameo.
However, these performances province the only high points of The Boondock Saints, which is ultimately little more than a derivative crime flick whose cult status in America remains baffling.