The Boondock Saints (1999)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Boondock Saints</strong> (1999)

(On DVD, December 2009) After years of hearing about The Boondock Saints’s cult popularity on DVD (it never received a proper theatrical run, which explains why I missed it in the first place), I took the release of a sequel as a good reason to finally watch the film and see what the fuss was about.  It turns out that the cult appeal of the film’s success is partly based on the material itself: the story of two catholic Boston brothers taking on the city’s organized crime, The Boondock Saints often feels like an extended apologia for vigilante justice and gunfight sequences.  But writer/director Troy Duffy is a bit more self-aware than most: The ending (in which the villain is murdered) is reprehensible in the way most American action films are, but it assumes this blood-thirstiness.  What’s a bit more disturbing is the way the film actually feels fun and cool: The pacing is right, the action beats are interesting, and the dialogue has good moments.  Despite some puzzling moments (which you can either blame on a first script or a very low budget), the non-linear structure of the script works well and showcases its lead actors in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  The standout performance here belongs to Willem Dafoe, who plays an ultra-competent FBI agent with gusto.  (The sequences in which his mind meshes with the crime he’s investigating are as good as this film gets.)  There’s also quite a bit of intriguing directing, with judicious use of hand-held and slow-motion cinematography.  Otherwise, well, The Boondock Saints is a mixture of crime, comedy and violence and action that finds resonance in the works of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino, certainly not as fully mastered as them, but definitely aiming at the same targets.  I’m a bit sorry I only saw it ten years after it came out.  The DVD contains a sympathetic commentary by writer/director Duffy and another one by Billy Connolly.

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