The Boondock Saints

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

"The Boondock Saints" is a film that is notorious not only for what it shows on the screen but also for what happened behind the scenes during the production. It is one of those films that truly has cult written all over it, not only because it is an extremely audacious film that sparked all sorts of controversy, but also because of its dark humor and its ambiguous characters.

Connor and Murphy McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) are brothers of Irish descend who get into a bar fight when the Russian mob tries to ruthlessly take over the establishment. They kill the mobsters and find that they are actually pretty good at it. Fed up with the filth in streets of Boston – the entire country for that matter – they decide to make it their responsibility to clean up the streets. Mobsters, criminals, thieves and, rapists who escape through the loopholes of our justice system become their targets, as the brothers go in a mission from God to do His dirty work.

On their heels is FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), trying to solve the string of murders, as he carefully tries to reconstruct the crime scenes with almost ethereal intuition. It doesn't take too long until he realizes who he is after and it is then that he faces a dilemma – he agrees with the brothers' mission to rid the city of evil.

But as more and more mobsters take a dirt nap, the family brings in "Il Duce," a notorious hitman (Billy Connolly) whose sole mission becomes to eradicate the vigilantes so that the mafiosi can return to business as usual.

It is easy to get caught up all the notoriety surrounding the making of the film, the story of a young hotshot writer who gets a studio to finance his project and even allows him to direct the film with a $15 mio budget, only to find himself kicked in the ass when his arrogance and stupidity gets the better of him while he is being caught publicly badmouthing the very people who support him. Blacklisted, stripped off his money and fallen from grace this newbie then sets about to shoot the film with a new financier and a $6 mio budget, only to see it never make it to a wide theater release because of his aforementioned antics. All this can be seen in a documentary called "Overnight," which is available in stores also.

All that aside however, "The Boondock Saints" is an incredibly well-crafted film that shows that Troy Duffy, the writer/director who fell from grace, had indeed talent and has pretty much thrown away his entire career as he was never able to do another film – although rumor has it that a sequel to "The Boondock Saints" is in the making.

As many of you may know, I am not a fan of films that depict violence for violence's sake. I despise the trend of the past years that films have become more graphically exploitative on every occasion, bombarding viewers with bloodshed rather than good stories. While "The Boondock Saints" is an incredibly violent and foul-mouthed film, I always felt that it was there to serve the story and not for its own sake. It is best exemplified when looking at the context and noticing that both the violence and the language are accurately placed and timed to fit the story arc and each of the characters at any given time. Unlike Quentin Tarantino who has neither sense for timing nor storytelling, Troy Duffy actually shows that he has the sensitivity required to pull such a story through to best effect, keeping it believable while going completely over the edge. Further Duffy has the eye of an artist and has provided the film with a stamp that is so uniquely his that many directors would die for. For a first-time director and writer one can only be impressed by the potential this film has revealed – and the one Duffy has wasted with his own arrogance.

Be that as it may, when starting up "The Boondock Saints" in high definition you will immediately know that you are in for a treat. The transfer looks spectacular from the first to the last frame. With an incredibly sharp picture that holds an impressive level of detail, absolutely nothing in "The Boondock Saints" will give away its somewhat limited budget or the tribulations it went through. Bold black levels that render deep shadows and create the stark contrasts that define the film's overall look are the foundation for this transfer. Layered on top is a bleached color palette that gives the film an urban look of desolation while never going as far as making it feel impersonal or unrealistic. It is a cold, cruel world, but one we can see ourselves living in.

Dishing out the film with a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless audio track, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made sure that the film also makes a sonic impact that you won't forget so easily. The film features a highly directional track that makes constant use of the surround channels and oftentimes throws you right in the middle of the action. It is balanced and effective while also making sure dialogues are never drowned out by the barrage of sound effects.

This Blu-Ray version features the movie's theatrical cut as it was seen during its limited theatrical run, as well as an extended Director's Cut. You will find commentary tracks on the theatrical cut of the movie, culled from the previous DVD release. The first features Troy Duffy – notably subdued and understated in an exercise to reconcile Hollywood it would appear – while the second one features Billy Connolly discussing various aspects of the movie. He may not have had the most prominent part in the film, but Connolly sure knows how to keep viewers engaged with his anecdotes and observations.

Also included are outtakes and deleted scenes as well as the movie's script.

"The Boondock Saints" is the perfect example of what a story of utter violence can look like in the hands of an artist, reminding me a lot of John Woo's methods in his earlier films. Orchestrating the action, offering it up with unique point of views while throwing in some off-beat humor to spice it up, Troy Duffy has truly created a remarkable film here that deserves to be seen, controversy or not. The most striking thing about the film is that it is hard not to agree with the McManus brothers, but it is hard to justify their anarchic ends. Get this film and see for yourself!