Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Boondock Saints

Okay, let me get this out of the way right now.  This is not a subtle movie.  It doesn't really have much of a plot.  It is gratuitously violent.  The director (Troy Duffy) clearly was aiming more for cool moments than a cohesive film.  Several characters are simply punchlines with legs.  It is moronic.  Willem Dafoe dresses in drag and is considered attractive.  The social commentary is boneheaded.  All in all, this is a truly ridiculous movie.

And I love it, just the same.  The movie stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as fraternal twins who kill a couple of Russian mobsters in self-defense.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Well, this acts as just the first instance of them killing criminals.  With the help of their friend/ low-level mob gopher (David Della Rocco), the brothers track down criminals of varying prestige and shoot them dead.  Why?  Um... because... villains are scum?  Actually, the brothers have a dream that tells them to.  Really.  Of course, the mob opts to defend itself, calling in Il Duce (Billy Connolly), a famously deadly assassin.  All the while, the Boston police and FBI are hot on the trail, with Willem Dafoe playing the part of a brilliant FBI agent.  As the film progresses, Dafoe starts to understand the brothers' motivation and must choose whether to arrest or aid them.

Taking the already stated weaknesses of this film into account, how can I enjoy this?  There are a lot of movies with similar problems that I despise (the sequel, for instance), but somehow this one gets off the hook.  How?  The secret is in the film's joy.  This movie looks like it was a blast to make, but that does not necessarily make it good (see: Rat Pack movies).  While the movie is ridiculous, both in its action and its dialogue, the movie never veers into parody.  That would be a mistake for a better director, but first-time writer/ director Troy Duffy isn't very talented; had he tried to make this a clever movie, it probably would have come off like The Doom Generation, AKA Brian's Most Hated Movie.  When Duffy tries to be clever or smart, it's really annoying, like when he has the "man on the street" interviews during the closing credits.  No, this movie works best when it is simple and gleefully dumb.

Helping that is the Z-list supporting cast.  Take, for starters, the presence of David Della Rocco.  Rocco plays a character named Rocco, which implies that the actor couldn't remember his character's name, so they changed it.  I don't know that for a fact, but that would be my first guess.  Rocco isn't much of an actor, but he can deliver dialogue with great comedic timing.  I never thought a dead cat would make me laugh, but he proved me wrong.  The talents of the three local policemen on the case range from poor to mediocre, but Bob Marley (Yes, the reggae legend.  Just with a lot of makeup, facial prostheses and, oh, not dead) delivers several great lines.  The other cops are fine, but Marley plays the idiot, so of course his lines should be either funny or annoying.  Luckily, they are the former.

The bigger name supporting cast does a good job, too.  Willem Dafoe steals every scene he's in, even if the things he's required to say and do are stupid.  Cross-dressing and river-dancing are just two examples, but he is still charming and funny throughout.  Yes, he's over-the-top here, but this is a conscious choice; his acting is on par with the tone of the film.  Unfortunately, a lot of his character's moments (especially the slow-motion action scenes) seem derivative of Gary Oldman's character in The Professional.  Oldman did it first and did it better, but Dafoe shines when he investigates the crime scenes.  Billy Connolly does not do much in the movie, but he definitely looks dangerous and cool.  That still counts for something.

Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, on the other hand, aren't terribly talented actors.  Luckily, the movie doesn't require much acting from them.  Really, the film is written like a series of punchlines with action scenes spliced in during flashbacks.  Flanery and Reedus do their jobs, sounding Irish, telling jokes, and looking handsome.  That's all their asked to do, and they do it well.

Some may find the lighthearted reactions to violence off-putting.  I can understand that.  This isn't a movie with heart, so the violence doesn't really hold any meaning.  That's what makes it gratuitous.  Everyone involved, though, goes for broke here.  Dafoe and Della Rocco are both wonderfully over the top.  The dialogue is often funny, partially because it is well-paced and partially because a lot of the lines are unexpected.  Basically, this movie is like movie popcorn: delicious, unhealthy, and best forgotten once you are finished.  Is this a great movie?  No, not at all.  Is it stupidly awesome?  Definitely.

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