Sunday, July 13, 2008

There Was A Firefight

I've had a lot of free time recently and I've spent most of that time watching a lot of movies. Two of the more recent movies I've watched were a pair of cult films from 1999, both of which are known to inspire some contentious reactions but are otherwise unrelated. I felt like writing about one of them, but didn't want to exert the effort to write about both of them. I ultimately decided to focus on The Boondock Saints. Sorry Mystery Men.

The Boondock Saints was written and directed by Troy Duffy, who effectively ended his star making opportunity through the sheer power of his ego and irascible behavior. His collapse is shown in painful detail in the documentary Overnight. I first watched Overnight years before seeing The Boondock Saints. This is unfortunate in retrospect because knowing that The Boondock Saints was crafted from the mind of a douchebag unfairly tainted my perspective of the movie.

The movie is about a pair of brothers with the super power of being Irish, who go on a holy mission to rid Boston of its criminals through vigilante violence. They go on a series of wacky misadventures taking out various mobsters in ways that are ridiculously over the top but result in the brothers looking like skilled assassins. They manage to find a way out of every impossible situation, eventually getting into some serious trouble when they allow their Italian friend to join them. That's what happens when you commiserate with the non-Irish.

The film's dialogue actually acknowledges the less than grounded approach to the violence. I think this bit of self-awareness works against it. If the other aspects of the movie were working as well as they're supposed to than it'd be easier to accept Instead it feels like the movie is trying too hard.

Willie Dafoe plays the only detective competent enough to understand just what went down and each and every crime scene, for the most part anyways. He's able to recreate the brother's shoot-outs and in one of the movie's highlights he's inserted into a flashback, playing along with the action. Dafoe completely chews through the scenery to the point that his character doesn't seem like he could be human. His character is also gay although that may only be as a reason to excuse his flamboyance.

Billy Connolly plays Il Duce, an unstoppable assassin for hire. I'm assuming Connolly only got the role in the first place because he was the most famous person willing to accept the part. He doesn't have to do much. They could have casted anyone to stand there and hold six guns. Although for what it's worth most of the actors in the movie do a decent job, despite the material they're working with.

The movie exists in a world where the cops are dunces, the laws are useless, and the streets are wrought with evil men who deserve to be punished. The problem comes with trying to accept this as our own world. The media dubs the brothers The Saints and many see them as doing good work that should be lauded. Even DaFoe's character believes in their cause. Duffy knows that not everyone sees the world in such a black and white way and he ends the movie with news footage of people arguing about The Saints' actions. This scene feels like a concession to the people who were expected to object to the movie.

This is a movie that is smart enough to understand its own proclivities and differing viewpoints but not smart enough to just be a better movie. A lot of people dismiss the movie as yet another Tarantino-esque crime film with atypical dialogue, but this is a weak entry even by Tarantino rip-off standards. The movie itself is completely forgettable and is overshadowed by the story of Troy Duffy's career trajectory. Duffy may not be a nice person but it's almost too bad we'll likely never get to see what he'd do for a follow-up. I don't understand why the movie has the cult following that it does. There are plenty of movies that cover the same ground but do it better. I did enjoy the movie to the extent that I laughed quite a bit. I'm just not sure the humor was intentional.

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