The Boondock Saints

Friday, December 07, 2007

What a lovable pair the MacManus brothers are. They're Irish, they're religious and they horse about at work, hitting each other in the face with pieces of raw meat. What cracking fellows. Oh, and in their spare time (surprise, surprise) they drink a lot. The only problem is that some Russian Nikolai Volkov look-a-likes want to buy their favourite bar. They can't be having this, so they beat the guys up and set one bloke's arse on fire. It's just a bit of crack. However, the Russians don't see the funny side. The day after this incident they chain one brother to the toilet and take the other down to the street to kill him. But then the chained brother frees himself, and from the top of the apartment building looking down onto the alley, he drops the toilet down onto the head of the Russian shooter, a man who is cackling like a cartoon villain, and then jumps several stories down onto the other, hitting him with remarkable precision. Then the other brother beats the Russians to death with fragments of the toilet. As if it needed stating, the film is a piece of shit.

Watching The Boondock Saints is kind of like performing a DIY lobotomy. You begin the experience as a normal human being, but by the end you're a drooling, shambling, glassy-eyed zombie. It's just a shame it's so hard to find someone to put a pillow over your face once the credits have rolled.

But what makes the film so bad? Well, the idiotic morality doesn't help. Apparently it's okay to kill people as long as you think they're evil and as long as you believe in god. But what constitutes evil? Well, instead of going after politicians, corporations and religious leaders, the brothers decide to kill gangsters. Well, fair enough, they're bad guys, but the brothers themselves aren't any better. They manhandle women, they terrorise priests and their best mate gropes the breasts of an unconscious woman. Wow, these are such great guys. However, their dumb mate makes up for the groping by slaughtering more wicked men. So that makes it alright, then.

But their dumb mate, a 'reformed' Italian gangster, also threatens his girlfriend with a gun. Remember, he's on the side of the righteous. And earlier on in his life, he stood by and watched a man slaughter an entire family. Of course, this non-response is justified by him being scared. However, at the very beginning, a priest says that the indifference of good men is just as bad as the evil of wicked men. Therefore, with this bloke turning a blind eye to violence and then embracing it, he's surely doubly evil.

Another stupid moral detail is that the brothers are supposedly protecting the Irish community. Yet this is a community, in the film, that is proud of not talking to the police. That's more indifference. So why should I give a tinker's fart about a community that wont help itself and which takes pride in allowing gangsters (the church is certainly included in this, as they're the biggest gangsters of all) take control of their lives?

But the most dubious piece of morality occurs at the end. The two brothers and Billy Connolly terrorise a court while spouting religious claptrap. Apparently they're right and you're wrong. You have to do what they say. "These are not polite suggestions. These are codes of behaviour." So do I get shot if I use prophylactics? I mean, the Pope hates those things and he's god's messenger on Earth.

But although I could spend ages ripping the religious nonsense to shreds, the film also fails spectacularly in terms of entertainment. For instance, there's the idiotic way it's filmed. Basically you go from crime scene to crime scene and then in flashback you see the murder itself (in mind-numbing slow-motion). It's incredibly repetitive. And Willem Dafoe's character, the FBI agent who's assigned the case, is a cheap rip off of Gary Oldman's character in Leon – he listens to classical music as he puts everything together (he also reaches for the sky in ecstasy when he solves puzzles). But to try and add some colour, the character is gay. However, for some reason, despite being fierce Catholics, the brothers don't mind this fact. They call him a good man. Maybe it's because he's the sort of homosexual who just loves bum sex – he doesn't like hugging. But again, it's further evidence of the way the brothers pick and choose what's good and what's bad – of course, we all do this, but most of us aren't going to shoot people if we don't agree with their personal choices.

What's really bad, though, is the action. There's one scene where the brothers and their mate are standing there having a shoot-out with Billy Connolly. No one moves but even at point blank range no one can hit the target. And what makes it even more stupid is that Connolly's character is supposed to be a lethal killing machine (he's kept in prison like Hannibal Lector). Someone give him some shooting lessons.

And then there's the scene where the brothers fall out of an air duct, and hanging from a rope, manage to kill a bunch of gangsters. Only someone with an IQ lower than Forest Gump could find any merit in that.

And the less said about the scene where Defoe re-enacts a shoot-out by using his fingers as guns, the better.

But what makes this film so depressing is the canonization of the main characters. Troy Duffy (the writer-director) loves these guys. He thinks they're great. And he thinks we should feel the same way - we should think they're wonderful. So there's no objectivity here. There's only juvenile, masturbatory hero-worship. Now I'm sure some people would point to the end titles and say, well, what about the vox pops? Well, the couple of notes of criticism are so belated and lackluster that you can tell Duffy's heart isn't in it. You just know he's with these guys all the way. Anything they do is okay in his book.

But perhaps even more depressing than Duffy's hero-worship of his idiotic creations is the fact that the film has garnered a strong cult following. I have no idea what they see in the film, because all I see is rightwing religious claptrap fed to the audience through moronic characters and preposterous situations. To admit to liking this film is to admit to being an imbecile.

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  1. Great review! This movie, inexplicably, has a following. Thank you for taking the wind out of their sails. No question that this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.