The Boondock Saints

South Boston, St Patrick’s Day, a time for family, a time for celebration, a time for remembrance of the past and the things which define a community; twin brothers of Irish-American ancestry, Conner and Murphy MacManus were brought up to be good Cathloic boys but while they attend mass at the grand cathedral their minds are elsewhere, their observance of the teachings on the deadly sins far from traditional.

Their neighbourhood under threat from the Russian mob, Yakavetta’s enforcers show up at the brothers’ local where owner Doc has just told them he is going to shut up shop; a fight ensues, and Conner and Murphy foolishly ensure that they make a lasting impression on the Russians who are surprised by the resistance they encounter.

The boys having got the better of the mob in the bar brawl, the Russians don’t take the insult lightly and come looking for a rematch with the odds skewed in their favour but fate intervenes, and FBI Agent Paul Smecker of Organised Crime finds himself in a back alley listening to theories of how a giant got the best of two armed professional enforcers, and the craziness is only just beginning.

Written and directed by Troy Duffy and shot for around six million dollars largely in Toronto with only certain scenes on location in Boston, The Boondock Saints was killed at the American box office almost before it was released in late 1999, shown on only five screens, but over time as it built a cult following it recouped its costs on home video and it has now been released on Blu-ray by Arrow.

Told episodically as it escalates from back alley squabbles to the makings of a full blown international mob war and making good use of the locations, The Boondock Saints feels like a much bigger film than it otherwise might, the exuberant performances carrying it forward with huge momentum with Duffy allowing all his actors to make the most of their parts.

As the unconventional FBI Agent Smecker, Streets of Fire‘s Willem Dafoe was by far the biggest star in the project at the time of filming, clearly enjoying himself in a performance which captures attention but never overwhelms the film, mocking the local police investigators even as he dismantles their theories and proposes his own, at ease in hostile territory which he makes his own.

As Conner, Sean Patrick Flanery was an established film actor who later starred as the lead in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones while former model and pop video background artiste Norman Reedus significantly raised his profile as Murphy, later appearing in Blade II and Pandorum before securing regular work battling The Walking Dead.

Undeniably built upon a morally ambiguous foundation, from their prison cell baptism the vendetta of the MacManus twins as they clean up the streets of their hometown is given the tacit blessing of Smecker who is swayed by their purpose and directness, the audience drawn to their side by his endorsement even through the outrageous and sometimes inventive violence.

Helped enormously by the likeable performances of Flanery and Reedus, their best friend David Della Rocco, “the Funny Man,” and Billy Connolly as the sinister silent hit man Il Duce, The Boondock Saints is patchy in places, flagging when focusing on the minor characters, but as an ambitious debut feature when it does succeed it is hugely entertaining.

The new edition containing deleted scenes which were best removed from the final cut and brief outtakes of the cast clowning around, Duffy’s commentary track is laid back and informative as the director relives the shooting process, speaking of his cast with great affection and appreciative of the fans of the film, notably not the Archbishop of Toronto who wrote him a letter describing him as “the Spawn of Satan.”

The Boondock Saints is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Films



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