Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day
It's been over ten years since the original The Boondock Saints was released; it was a bad time for ultra-violent films, since it came out right after the Columbine shootings. For those who haven't seen the movie, it's about two brothers who decide to become vigilantes and, more or less, start killing all the criminals they can find. Despite never getting wide release, the film became a cult classic and a huge hit on DVD. Personally, I love The Boondock Saints, for what it does right and wrong. It's even become something of a tradition to watch it on St. Patrick's Day. Now, the long awaited sequel is on DVD. Does this mean that next year, I'll start watching two movies every March 17? The short answer is "no."
This movie has every reason to succeed. The writer/director of the first film (Troy Duffy) returns, along with the three stars, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and Billy Connolly. The three Boston policemen from the first movie return. Heck, the bad guys even get upgraded in this movie; in the first flick, Ron Jeremy was the most famous villain, but here we have Peter Fonda and Judd Nelson. There are two notable absences, though. While the lovely and talented Willem Dafoe is relegated to a cameo, he is replaced by television actress Julie Benz (of Dexter and Angel fame); that is not an improvement, but more on her later. Also, the funny, but not much of an actor, David Della Rocco is more or less replaced (he still cameos, but he died in the last film) by the less funny, but arguably a better actor, Clifton Collins, Jr.
More or less, the team that made the first movie so much fun was back in business. So, how's the script? Well, when I was watching it, I commented that it felt like the script was written in two days, but Troy Duffy spent the next ten years making sure to turn everything up to eleven; in other words, every line in every scene feels like it was tweaked so that it would be ultra-memorable. Duffy probably re-watched The Boondock Saints critically and concluded that he wasted too much time having dialogue that built character and advanced plot; this time around, every line would be a "zinger." Seriously, this movie is very tiring. You know when you have a friend that's funny, but feels that he's being ignored? He overreacts by trying to make every single thing he says funny, and in the process just becomes annoying. Well, your friend's name is The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
The plot isn't much better. After the events of the last movie, the MacManus brothers (Flanery and Reedus) are living in seclusion with their father (Connelly) as sheep herders in Ireland. Somebody kills a priest in Boston and leaves their trademark after the crime, so the brothers return to Boston with the plan to kill everyone involved with the crime. Okay, so far, so good. Revenge and honor are as good a reason as any for vigilantes to start killing criminals, right? And that's basically what happens. Sure, they are lacking David Della Rocco, so they pick up an equally bumbling sidekick in Clifton Collins, Jr. Yes, they're being chased by the FBI again, but instead of their accomplice, Dafoe, they get his apprentice, Benz. Billy Connolly is not in much of the movie (just like last time), but when he is, the plot focuses on him (much like last time). Ugh. It's the same movie, but not nearly as good, despite all its efforts.
So, if the movie is basically the first movie, but with a lot more insults and supposedly memorable lines, where does it fall short? Let's start with the MacManus family. When the movie begins, the brothers are going incognito; their hair and beards are shoulder length. While this actually looks natural on Reedus, Flanery looks like he Velcro-ed woolen socks to his face for his beard. Okay, that's a small complaint. But, when they decide to return to Boston, where the FBI will undoubtedly be looking for them, they cut their hair and beards to look exactly the same as they did when the last movie ended. Very incognito. The brothers are sharing the same tattoo this time around; they both have Christ on the cross in the middle of their backs, but Flanery has Christ from the head down to the waist, while Reedus has the legs and feet. Really? What were they thinking? What position do they have to be in for that to look cool? Even if Flanery was getting a piggy back ride from Reedus, there would still be a gap in their flesh portrait! You know what would have been better? If they shared the same tattoo, but it was split down the center; when they are back-to-back, preparing to execute a criminal, only then does it come together as one portrait. The brothers are still amateurs, too. They get in the same fights that they did in the last movie over the same things. They still play jokes with unloaded guns. They still plot their attacks like they are in a bad action movie (well, they are, but you know what I mean). In short, over ten years, the only noticeable change in these characters is that Flanery looks older. Oh, any Billy Connolly (who is the best part of the MacManus family) is barely in the movie; instead, we are treated to a Godfather II-esque origin story for him. In a word: LAME.
The supporting cast isn't better, either. Benz has the strongest (and worst) southern accent I have heard this side of sketch comedy. I don't like her motivation and I think the way it was introduced to the Boston cops would have been much more effective if the MacManus brothers were not in on the secret. Her part was too similar to Dafoe's, to the point of mockery. Peter Fonda sports an Italian accent that made me yearn for his surfer turn in Escape From L.A. Clifton Collins, Jr. was both a cartoon and, in some ways, extremely charming. I wavered between hating him and laughing at him, so his performance canceled itself out for me. Judd Nelson (and I can't believe I'm typing this) was underused in this movie, and I wish he had more screen time. Willem Dafoe's cameo was welcome, although it opened the movie up for an obvious sequel (that might actually happen, since the film was profitable in the US alone). David Della Rocco's cameo acted as a mission statement for the movie; while it was not at all subtle, Rocco is fun to see on the screen.
Overall, this is a movie that is living in the shadow of its predecessor. Boondock Saints II wants to be the Terminator 2 for its franchise, the sequel that takes all the great things from the first movie and makes them James-Cameron-HUGE. It certainly succeeds in making things louder and dumber, but that doesn't make it better. Is it violent? Yes. Does it have a lot of creative dialogue? Too much. Does it make sense? Kind of. The main problem with Boondock Saints II is that it loves the original so much, the characters can't escape its formula.