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Boondock Saints (1999)

Boondocks: a rural area: Sticks
Boondocks: a rural area: Sticks

Genre: Action Crime Drama Thriller (Canada, USA)

Starring: Norman Reedus ("Masters of Horror": John Carpenter's Cigarette BurnsPandorum), Sean Patrick Flanery (Suicide KingsPowder)

Directed By: Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Overview: After two Boston Irish lads defend themselves from a gang of Russian mobsters, they feel a calling to exorcise the evil that plagues their neighbourhood.

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.

So we shall flow a river forth to Thee

and teeming with souls shall it ever be.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

After hearing that the original plan for this film was to have Miramax produce it for $15 million dollars and star such potential actors as Sylvester Stallone, Bill Murray and Mike Myers, I feel like I dodged a painful bullet after learning that they had dropped the project. When it was picked up by Indy studio Franchise Pictures (The Last Samurai, Battlefield Earth) instead, it most likely resulted in a film that was far more fun, as well as one that has solidified its place in cultdom. Franchise Pictures may have bought the farm after too many bad decisions (Angel Eyes starring Jennifer Lopez? Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever? - ouch), but their finest legacy is Boondock Saints. Rather than those above-named big Hollywood actors, this studio cast Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as the brothers and Willem Defoe and Billy Connelly in supporting roles.

The role of manly homosexual FBI Special Agent Paul Smecker played by Willem Dafoe is a show stealer. In fact, it's upstaging at its finest, and it works. Allow me to blur the line between you and the fourth wall just a little bit: we have two relatively unknown actors playing two relatively unknown brothers in the boondocks of Boston. We all know that Willem is a bit of a famous tour-de-force, and when his character, Agent Smecker, walks onto the crime scene to investigate a double murder, his reputation precedes him. We immediately know that Smecker's going to find the people responsible and Willem's own presence exudes out of this character. Billy Connelly is also cast in a similar fashion. Also an actor with a reputation, we have in Il Duce, his assassin character, a man with the terrifying reputation of being an animal with a gun. When Il Duce is summoned to kill the boys messing with the mob, we already feel that they're unevenly matched, and will be facing a genuine nemesis.

Boondock Saints is a film that's a little bit all over the place, wacky while being deep, gratuitous while being solemn, and without the glorious, over-the-top delivery of Willem Defoe, I'm convinced it wouldn't have dug itself into the endearing category of kitschy-cool that it's nestled in. Although the production value is half the original Miramax budget, it's rife with religious imagery, beautifully and artistically shot. By far my favourite scene is one where Special Agent Paul Smecker relives a crime scene. As he walks through the scene describing what might have happened, the brothers are there, doing it. Smecker walks with them as they go from room to room, firing his fingers like guns as the brothers put bullets into their enemies. The visual spectacle is quite stunning, and it's a crying shame it didn't make it on the short list of 1999 films in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

This poor Russian's about to get baptised plus a toilet
This poor Russian's about to get baptized plus a toilet

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 84% (Holy Nice)

When's the last time you saw a fun little gangster vengeance drama with a hefty dollop of comedy tossed in? Boondock Saints might just be what the doctor ordered. And did I mention it's available on Blu-Ray? I just love saying that...

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