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The Boondock Saints

The Boondock Saints is a 1999 action crime drama film written and directed by Troy Duffy. The film stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as fraternal twins Connor and Murphy MacManus, who become vigilantes after killing two members of the Russian mob in self-defense. After a message from God, the brothers, together with their friend David Della Rocco, set out to rid their home city of Boston of evil, all the while being pursued by FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe).

Duffy indicates that the screenplay was inspired by personal experience, while living in Los Angeles. The film experienced a limited theatrical release of only five theaters for one week, and was met with poor critical reviews. Nevertheless, it proved divisive among viewers, developing both a large cult following, as well as enmity from viewers and critics who have called it a film undeserving of cult status. The film's cult following may have been partly due to the efforts of Blockbuster Video, which made the film a "Blockbuster Exclusive." The ending credit sequence, which features the media asking the people of Boston, "Are the 'saints' good or evil?", was shot by Mark Brian Smith, co-director of Overnight, a documentary film about the making of The Boondock Saints, and Troy Duffy himself.

Plot

The film opens with mass in a Boston Catholic church, where fraternal twin brothers Connor McManus(Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy McManus (Norman Reedus) pray very deeply while a sermon is read, mentioning Kitty Genovese, a real-life crime victim brutally murdered while her neighbors watched without intervening. As the priest begins his homily, the brothers, despite astonished stares from the churchgoers and priests, approach the altar and kiss the feet of a crucifix. They depart as the priest reminds the congregation that they should fear not just evil but also the "indifference of good men". The brothers conclude that the priest finally understands, Connor stating, "I do believe the Monsignor's finally got the point..." and Murphy replying, "Aye".

Connor and Murphy are pious Catholics who work at a local meatpacking plant. While celebrating St. Patrick's Day in a neighborhood bar, three Russian "soldiers" enter and order everyone to leave, as their organization has decided to evict the pub. In the ensuing bar brawl, Connor, Murphy, and the patrons publicly humiliate the mobsters, who the next day ambush the brothers in their home. As Murphy is dragged into a nearby alley to be executed, Connor escapes to the roof and drops a toilet on the mobsters, killing them in self-defense and rescuing Murphy.

The Russian mob's involvement summons FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) to the murder case, and he surmises that the mobsters' death was not a professional hit but self-defense. As the police begin a manhunt for the killers, Connor and Murphy arrive at the police station to clear their names. During the initial interrogation, the brothers impress Smecker with their accomplished multilingualism (including Gaelic, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, and German) while recalling the specifics of the barfight and subsequent self-defense the next morning. Smecker believes their story and allows them to stay overnight in a holding cell to evade the press. That night in the cell, Connor and Murphy receive a vision from God telling them to destroy all that is evil so that which is good may flourish.

The brothers resolve to rid Boston of "evil men" with the help of their friend and former mob package boy David "The Funnyman" Della Rocco (David Della Rocco). The brothers trade in the weapons and valuables stolen from the mobsters' bodies for their own, and use Connor's knowledge of Russian to locate a meeting between Russian syndicate bosses at a local hotel. Crashing into the room through an overhead air duct, the brothers draw their guns and fire, miraculously killing the 8 underbosses. Forcing the leader (Victor Pedtrchenko) to his knees, the brothers recite a short prayer and execute him, placing pennies over his closed eyes. The fact that all the killings involved the Russian Mob leads Smecker to the theory that the executions were the result of the feud between the Russian and Italian mobs.

After hunting down and shooting Vincenzo Lipazzi (Ron Jeremy), underboss of the Yakavetta crime family at a local strip club (and thus defeating Smecker's mob war theory), the three vigilantes proceed on a series of increasingly violent missions, cleansing the city of vicious criminals and others who have eluded justice. Papa Joe Yakavetta (Carlo Rota), believing that the mob killings are an act of revenge from Rocco, contracts the infamous contract killer Il Duce (Billy Connolly), to deal with the vengeful package boy.

Following a mission on a mob poker game, the trio is ambushed by Il Duce and in the resulting shootout, the trio manage to chase Il Duce away but Rocco's finger is shot off. Hours later at the crime scene, Smecker discovers the finger and secretly takes it to conduct his own investigation. Discovering that it belongs to Rocco, whom he previously met, Smecker begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the various murders. His sympathy for the brothers conflicting with his professional desire to bring them to justice, Smecker goes on a drinking binge before seeking advice from a Catholic priest. Bemoaning the futility of the courts that fail to punish evil men and his uncertainty with the MacManus brothers' actions in a confessional, Smecker is oblivious to the fact that Rocco, who has tracked Smecker to the church, is forcefully (gun to head) directing the priest's responses to preserve the Boondock Saints' identities. Connor sees Rocco follow the priest into the confessional and, disgusted with the blasphemy, pulls Rocco's head through the other confessional at gun point. In whispered tones, Rocco tries to explain to Connor the circumstance all the while still holding his gun to the priest's head. Smecker is advised, reluctantly by the priest, that the Saint's are acting as messengers from God and that "the laws of God are greater than the laws of man." Inspired by the advice, Smecker decides to help the brothers.

The McManus brothers and Rocco infiltrate the Yakavetta headquarters to finish off the family, but are captured by Papa Joe, who kills Rocco to intimidate the brothers. As they say their family prayer over Rocco, Il Duce arrives and sneaks up behind them.

As he hears them recite the family prayer, and upon seeing that the man he was hired to kill (Rocco) is dead, he lowers his weapons and joins them. It becomes apparent that Il Duce is their long-lost father, as the brothers had previously refused to teach Rocco the prayer because it is only passed down in their family. He then joins them in their mission to rid the city of evildoers.

Three months later Papa Joe is sent to trial, and though there seems to be enough evidence to convict him, the reporters on scene anticipate his acquittal due to his Gotti-esque charisma. The trial is forcibly interrupted when the two brothers and Il Duce, aided by Agent Smecker and several police officers, infiltrate and lock down the courtroom. The three then publicly declare their mission to destroy evil and recite their prayer one last time, killing Papa Joe with several bullets (and a shotgun blast) to the back of the head. The media dubs the three "Saints", and the movie ends with various "man-on-the-street" interviews in which various Boston citizens reflect on the question "Are the Saints ultimately good, or evil?"

Courtroom Speech:

Now you will receive us. We do not ask for your poor or your hungry. We do not want your tired and sick. It is your corrupt we claim.It is your evil that will be sought by us.With every breath, we shall hunt them down.Each day we will spill their blood til it rains down from the skies.Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal, these are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.These are not polite suggestions. These are codes of behavior and those of you that ignore them will pay the dearest cost.There are varying degrees of evil, we urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over into true corruption, into our domain. But if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see we three and on that day you will reap it. And we will send you to which ever god you wish.And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord for thee, power hath descended forth from thy hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out thy command. We shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti

Cast

Actor Role
Willem Dafoe Agent Paul Smecker, FBI
Sean Patrick Flanery Connor MacManus
Norman Reedus Murphy MacManus
David Della Rocco David Della Rocco
Billy Connolly Il Duce/Duke MacManus
David Ferry Detective Dali
Brian Mahoney Detective Duffy
Bob Marley Detective Greenly
Carlo Rota Don "Papa" Joe Yakavetta
Ron Jeremy Vincenzo Lipazz

Development

Writer and director Troy Duffy wrote the screenplay for Boondock Saints, while living in Los Angeles, California, when he came home from his job to find a dead woman being wheeled out of a drug dealer's apartment across the hall. Duffy then rented a computer (he didn't own one himself) and wrote the screenplay about The Boondock Saints, based on his disgust at what he saw.
I decided right there that out of sheer frustration and not being able to afford a psychologist, I was going to write this, think about it. People watching the news sometimes get so disgusted by what they see. Susan Smith drowning her kids... guys going into McDonald's, lighting up the whole place. You hear things that disgust you so much that even if you're Mother Teresa, there comes a breaking point. One day you're gonna watch the news and you're gonna say, 'Whoever did that despicable thing should pay with their life.|10px
The film was directed by Duffy, who had moved to Hollywood to break into the music business. He was a bartender at a sports bar called J. Sloan's when he wrote The Boondock Saints. The documentary Overnight, which chronicled Duffy's "rags-to-riches" story, showed that the script was worth $300,000, and the film itself was originally given a $15 million budget by Miramax's Harvey Weinstein. It was in Overnight that Duffy showed abrasive behavior, causing tension for many people involved in the project. The deal was set for Duffy to direct, with his band doing the soundtrack, and as a bonus, Miramax offered to buy and throw in co-ownership of J. Sloan's, where Duffy worked.

The film's development was stalled due to Duffy and Miramax not being able to agree on casting, which caused Miramax to drop the project. Patrick Swayze, Stephen Dorff, and Robert De Niro all passed on roles in the film. Duffy later found an indie studio "Franchise Pictures", to pick up his movie and let him cast it with whom he wanted. Having found someone to back the movie, filming began in Toronto, with the final scenes being filmed in Boston. The film took a total of 32 days to film. The name of Duffy's band The Brood, was renamed to The Boondock Saints following the movie's release. The film featured two songs from the band: "Holy Fool", which played during Rocco's tavern shootout, and "Pipes", which played during the credits.

Releases

Theatrical release

When Boondock Saints was completed it was given an extremely limited theatrical release, with its distributor showing the film on only five screens in the United States for one week. The original unrated version of the film was re-released in theaters on May 22, 2006. Troy Duffy later funded screenings of the film with help from Blockbuster Video. "Blockbuster saved us [...] They agreed to take it on exclusively, and from there the rest is history." According to Troy Duffy on his audio commentary of the film on DVD, the film's distributor allowed the limited screening only in the United States due to the then recent Columbine High School shooting. The film was shown on major foreign screens (most notably in Japan) with success. Blockbuster released The Boondock Saints as a "Blockbuster Exclusive", a collection of independent direct-to-video films. The Boondock Saints gained a following mostly due to word of mouth publicity and was a bestseller when released on DVD. Despite its success, Troy Duffy never saw any of the profits from DVD distribution, having signed away the DVD rights in his contract with Indican.

DVD release

Boondock Saints has been released numerous times on DVD, including an import on March 13, 2001 and an uncut Japanese release published by Toshiba Entertainment in 1999, whose special features include anamorphic widescreen, audio commentary, trailers, and interviews with the Japanese media. On May 23, 2006 The Boondock Saints Collector's Edition was published and released by 20th Century Fox on DVD, as well as UMD for the Playstation Portable. The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, commentary by Billy Connolly and Troy Duffy, deleted scenes and outtakes. It also featured the film's trailer, cast and crew filmographies, and a printable script of the film. 20th Century Fox and Duffy showed an interest in doing a new audio commentary for the special release, but he was unable to because of unresolved legal issues. Daulton Dickey of gmcplanet.com said in his review of the special edition's special features:

Billed as an unrated edition, it appears as though the film has only been altered by swapping in bloodier alternate takes, pumping up the gore but offering nothing else. Although the movie contains a new audio commentary track by actor Billy Connolly, the track with Troy Duffy has been ported over from the previous DVD edition. Included on the second disc are a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes that have also been ported over from the previous release.|10px

Reception

The film has received poor reviews from critics, with the review-tallying web site Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 13 out of the 16 reviews they tallied were negative for a score of 19% and a certification of "rotten". However, the community meter stands at a "fresh" 84%, a sharp contrast to the low score from critics. It also received an overall Metacritic score of 44/100. Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club described the film in his review of the DVD as a "less proper action-thriller" and "a series of gratuitously violent setpieces strung together with only the sketchiest semblance of a plot". Rabin went on to describe the film as "all style and no substance, a film so gleeful in its endorsement of vigilante justice that it almost veers (or ascends) into self-parody. Other reviews were more positive, with Robert Koehler of Variety describing the film in his review as,

A belated entry in the hipster crime movie movement that began with "Reservoir Dogs," Troy Duffy's "Boondock Saints" mixes blood and Catholic-tinged vigilante justice in excessive portions for sometimes wacky and always brutal effect. [The film is] more interested in finding fresh ways to stage execution scenes than in finding meaning behind the human urge for self-appointed righting of wrongs.|10 px

Koehler also described Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as "curiously stolid and blank", while praising supporting actors Billy Connolly and Carlo Rota for making the most of their screen time. Koehler also praised the tech personnel, "This uneven exercise in pacing and cutting is abetted by an eclectic score by Jeff Danna and whiz lensing by Adam Kane. Other tech credits fire bull's-eyes. New Times film reviewer Luke Y. Thompson described it as "a redundant Tarantino/Marty wanna-be."

Film critics have taken note of the film's extreme violence and "slow-motion bloodletting". Even positive reviews took note of the fact that Duffy "borrowed from bigger blockbusters". Reviewer Vince Leo wrote, "The Boondock Saints is yet another recent entry in the Pulp Fiction clones, where huge doses of violence are mixed in with irreverently funny scenes of cleverness that entertain even if they are basically needless to the overall plot.

Sequel

In late March 2002, Duffy posted a letter to fans of the first film, claiming that financial backing had been found for a sequel. It would reportedly have twice the budget of the original film, and "experience a theatrical release." According to the film's official website, the release date of the sequel The Boondock Saints: All Saints Day would be September 2005, though this never materialized. In an interview with IGN, Duffy explained the litigation with the company that controls the rights to the first film, Duffy went on to express his, as well as most of the casts', interest in making the sequel.

Everybody's back in except Willem Dafoe, [because] sometimes actors have their careers plotted out in different ways and he's sort of doing a different thing now. So he's the only one who won't be back. Bill Connolly, the brothers, Rocco, everybody's in and calling me every two weeks and going when are we going to do this thing?|10px

In June 2006, it was announced that due to the success of The Boondock Saints on DVD, 20th Century Fox has agreed to finance a sequel. In September 2006, a video—originally released for a one night showing in May 2006—was posted to the Boondocks website. In this video, Duffy explains the legal issues of the sequel, confirms that the sequel will in fact be a reality, and mentions a new project called The Good King. It also announces that the film will have a theatrical release in the United States.

Troy Duffy posted a video on his YouTube account on March 17, 2008 (in possible accordance with the holiday St. Patrick's Day) which detailed that the sequel has been given a green light by Sony and is set to have the entire cast return with the exception of Willem Dafoe. This film will begin shooting summer of 2008 according to Duffy. The clip was taken down from YouTube shortly after it was uploaded, but remains on other accounts.

On June 20, 2008, while being introduced at the Comedy Connection in Boston, Massachusetts, it was stated that Bob Marley was currently in production of the sequel, reprising his role from the first film.

Pre-production on the film started in early September and the first day of shooting is stated to begin October 20 in Canada. Some scenes may be shot in Boston depending on the film's financing.

References

External links

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