The Boondock Saints

The Boondock Saints (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes

Two brothers, after getting into a bar fight whilst defending the establishment from a takeover by the Russian mob, experience what they perceive to be a divine revelation from God. They believe God is commanding them to go out and strike down all evil doers. Being good Irish Catholics, the boys do just that – thus, the legend of "The Boondock Saints" and the making of a cult movie are born!

Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus portray fraternal twins, Connor and Murphy MacManus, two south Boston brothers who love the Church and their neighborhood. They're also kinda crazy for believing they are on a "mission from God," to wipe out the criminal elements polluting their community.

This doesn't sit too well with the local mobsters, so they decide to get an early parole for "Il Duce," (Billy Connolly) one of the most feared hitmen ever, known for getting the job done right. In the meantime, hot on the brothers' trail of murder and chaos, is Detective Paul Smecker, (Willem Dafoe in a great performance) a flamboyantly gay cop. While half the cops in south Boston are having a hard time putting the pieces of the puzzle together, Detective Smecker comes to the realization of who the killers are. The problem is, Smecker finds himself agreeing with the actions of the vigilantes he is pursuing!

Some background history: Most movie enthusiasts know the story by now. In 1997, a south Boston, beer drinking, bar bouncer, named Troy Duffy, wrote a script called, "The Boondock Saints." Through a series of happy coincidences, the script found its' way onto the desk of Miramax's Harvey Weinstein.

Not only was Duffy paid $300,000 for his script, he was also given the chance to direct the movie himself, and have his own band do the soundtrack! Most of this incredible story was captured on a fascinating documentary called, "Overnight." What made "Overnight" so incredible was not necessarily the rise of Duffy, but his unbelievable crash and burn which was captured on film. Duffy was filmed while drunk and partying saying many things about powerful people and other actors he will no doubt live to regret. His passive-aggressive manipulations of family, friends and studio heads are forever burned onto celluloid. Eventually, Duffy's bombast and arrogance of how his film should be handled caught up with him and ultimately caused Harvey Weinstein to drop the project – and Duffy like a hot potato.

What once went from a $15 million dollar package deal, (At one point, Weinstein even offered to buy the bar and be co-partners with Duffy!) quickly ended up with Duffy scrambling for backers and having only $6 million dollars to complete his film. Truly, if ever a documentary is to be seen by a hopeful Indie filmmaker, "Overnight" is that cautionary tale of how power can corrupt when it's given too fast and not appreciated.

Despite all the above, there is also no doubt that Troy Duffy has a unique eye as a director and is a pretty decent writer as well. The dialogue is mostly witty, dry and darkly humored. The direction is top notch for a first time filmmaker. Editing, cinematography and lighting are expertly done as well. In the commentary, Duffy makes sure to give kudos to all involved in helping him along. All the actors, some of which never appeared on camera before give very good and convincing performances. Using location shooting coupled with some set design gives the production an all around expertly produced look and feel.

20th Century Fox debuts this version of "The Boondock Saints" in an unrated special edition 2-disc set. The keepcase is black with a silver Celtic cross embossed on the front. "The Boondock Saints" appears in red lettering in the center of the cross. The package, even without the 2 DVDs in it has a nice weighty feel.

Disc one is digitally remastered by THX for optimal video and audio quality. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, preserving the films original theatrical presentation, "The Boondock Saints" is simply beautiful to look at! For an independent movie, contrast is well balanced and just about perfect in the daylight scenes. (Something which many Indie features suffer from) Colors are strong and vibrant producing a rich saturation, while flesh tones are natural. Black levels are solid and deep, thus providing for very good shadow delineation. No edge enhancement was noticed. The movie was free from grain, and no debris or dust was evident. Compression was without flaw. A very solid transfer indeed!

This is a flipper disc and a full screen version is found on the other side. The presentation is 1.33:1 and for a full screen transfer, it had the appearance of a better than broadcast quality image. The sound is all new as well. Sporting a 5.1 dolby EX surround track, we are treated to a wide dynamic range of field. When they kick in, the rear channels are nicely aggressive and free from distortion. Dialogue emanating from the center channel was clear and distinct. There are two audio commentaries. One from Troy Duffy and a separate track recorded by actor Billy Connolly.

Listening to Duffy's commentary was pretty interesting if not enlightening as to all that went on behind the scenes. There is no arrogant Troy Duffy to be found here. He simply talks about the films' shoot, and how he completed it in 32 days on a budget of $6 million dollars. In fact, Duffy is sort of disingenuous when he says he'd like to talk "a little" about the films' controversies. Apparently, Troy is attempting to rewrite history, for there is zero talk about the original $15 million dollar deal he had, Miramax, Weinstein, nor the documentary, "Overnight" which he was so famously captured on and serves as a video archive of the truth. Instead, Duffy serves up a version that goes like this: "The Boondock Saints" was merely a victim of the times as the reason it didn't get played in all the theaters. The Columbine shooting had just occurred, and controversial movies such as "The Matrix" and "The Basketball Diaries" were already sparking outcries from the public.

Because of this, according to Duffy, his movie simply got "lost in the shuffle." What he fails to mention is despite Columbine, those two other films had no problem getting released into theaters, and "The Matrix" made a ton of cash. The reality is, his movie was mainly shut out of theaters due to the power wielded by Harvey Weinstein – a guy Duffy is caught on film calling some nasty names. Oh well, maybe he's trying to tone himself down and put the past behind him, or it's the studio putting him on the leash. Hopefully, he has learned a lesson, because I believe despite the posturings and attitude, Troy Duffy has the potential to be a very good filmmaker. It remains to be seen how forgiving Hollywood and how humble Duffy are. To date, Troy Duffy hasn't made another movie or sold anymore screenplays since "The Boondock Saints" was completed.

Billy Connolly, on his track, comes right out and gets the controversies out of the way. He says after he signed on, he began hearing rumors of infighting, budget problems, etc. Despite this, he speaks highly of Duffy as a no nonsense director and how their first professional meeting was, at Duffy's insistence, in a bar. Connolly's commentary is personable and talkative throughout. For Connolly, working on "The Boondock Saints" was a great experience.

The special features are found on disc two and are a mixed bag. There are seven deleted scenes. About four of them were good enough to have been re-edited back into the movie. There are only a minute & a half of outtakes, along with two trailers. One is for the feature presentation itself – except it's in full screen! The other trailer is for Donnie Darko – directors cut – and get this – that one is in widescreen! Filmographies are also found here. Finishing up the disc is the script for "The Boondock Saints." You have to put the DVD into your computer in order to access this feature.

When it first debuted on home video, I wasn't really a fan of "The Boondock Saints." I liked the movie but soon forgot about it. Then, when "Overnight" hit DVD, I rented it and was fascinated! I checked out Duffy's movie again, and despite not liking him personally, I came away with an admiration for the guy in managing to see his project through and its impressive end result, in spite of all his troubles – many of which he created himself. I gradually warmed up to the movie as a quirky Tarantino-esqe crime drama. In fact, Duffy admits in the commentary to being inspired by Quentin Tarantino.

With its great new transfer and audio, along with being well acted, decently written, expertly directed and produced, despite all the behind the scenes turmoil, I highly recommend this new unrated edition of "The Boondock Saints" for any fan of quirky crime cinema!