Post-Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino became one of the most influential filmmakers in modern-day cinema. Towards the latter half of the 90s, myriads of filmmakers tried to replicate both his style and success—with few succeeding. Troy Duffy very much seems to have been one of the “Tarantino Generation” filmmakers, making his directorial debut in 1999 with the low-budget, stylish, and ultra-violent The Boondock Saints.
Saints takes place in Boston and follows the lives of brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus, played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, respectively. The two are church-going Irish men that work at a meat packing company. However, after a bar fight that leads to self-defense against two Russian Mafia members, the brothers receive “an awakening.” Their new “calling” summons them to hunt down corrupt, evil men in order to protect the innocent. When they start to clean up the streets, however, the brothers soon find out that they are being tracked down by an expert FBI agent named Paul Smecker, played by Willem Dafoe. Connor and Murphy must also deal with their friend Rocco (played by David Della Rocco), who seeks to join the two in their new-found activities. Mafia members also begin fighting back against the brothers in order to protect themselves and their criminal ways.
While Saints is no Tarantino film, it is one of the better clones. The movie is super-bloody and self-important at times, but I think it makes an interesting case for vigilantism. Duffy mixes off-the-wall humor, hyper action, and strange characters into his story; the editing and music add a lot to Duffy’s preferred style. The story structure is somewhat episodic, as individual scenes of the MacManus’ actions are given strong focus, leaving the movie as more of a series of events than something of an actual story. The ending result is a violent but tongue-in-cheek exercise, with some serious undertones (or it tries to be serious) thrown in towards the finale.
Most of the acting in the film is passable, but far from great. Despite this, I was interested in most of the characters. I enjoyed the chemistry shared between Flanery and Reedus, and Rocco works well as a comical supporting player. Dafoe definitely stands tall among everyone else, though. With his amazing acting abilities, Dafoe becomes fully invested in the gay and loony Smecker (it is an underrated performance on the actor’s resume). Billy Connolly also pops up and adds some strength to the movie as an older, famous killer-for-hire.
Duffy’s Saints bombed at the box office and received largely negative reviews from critics upon release. Over the years, though, it has gained a large cult following. While I normally agree with the critic community when it comes to films, I must say that with Saints I am more on the side of its devoted followers. The film is definitely not for all tastes, but I see Saints as an underrated and entertaining film—and something better than the average “wannabe Tarantino” flicks. In the end, I do recognize the many flaws of Saints that critics have pointed out, but I’m more forgiving of them and sort-of love the movie.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.