You ever come across a movie that you have never heard of but all of your friends talk about it and reference it, making you feel completely stupid for not being able to follow along? Surprisingly, that happens to me every now and then. I know that might seem odd, given how much I enjoy movies and how many I watch but the truth is, since my preference tends to focus on a somewhat limited genre at times, there are plenty of movies that will slip by me. That is the case for The Boondock Saints, as I obviously didn’t see it when it was in theaters due to it’s limited release, but I also didn’t rent it right away when it came out on DVD. It was several years after it’s release, when several of my friends were talking about it, that I decided to rent it and a few years later when I picked up my copy. Now let’s see just how well this movie has aged.
The plot: In Boston, MA, Connor and Murphy MacManus, twin Irish-American brothers, are attending mass and as the priest goes to give his sermon, they walk up to the front of the church, kneel in front of the cross and kiss the feet of Jesus, then leave, while the priest talks about the death of Kitty Genovese, using it to discuss being a good man. After a rough day at work at the meat packing plant, they head to a local bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some of their friends, including David Della Rocco, a low ranking member of the mafia. As the night winds down, Doc, the bar owner, says that he is being forced to shut the place down just as three members of the Russian syndicate enter the bar to enforce the point. Connor and Murphy try to placate the three men, telling them that it is St. Patrick’s Day and they should all be friends and share a pint but the leader of the Russians shoves Connor back towards the bar. The next day, the police are investigating the deaths of two of the Russians when they are approached by FBI Agent Paul Smecker, who quickly dismisses the lead detective’s theories on what happened and sends him off for coffee instead. Putting in some earbuds so he can listen to classical music, Smecker then proceeds to examine the crime scene and once he is finished, he has some of the officers look for bullets and items that he believes will be found in the area. Learning that a woman is complaining of her ceiling leaking on the 4th floor, Smecker says that they need to look on the 5th floor for the initial crime scene. After checking the apartment of Connor and Murphy, they head back downstairs where an officer says he knows the area and feels that they should check out the nearby bar so Smecker heads over there. Some time later, Connor and Murphy are having their injuries tended too at a Catholic hospital when Doc shows up to ask them what happened and tell them about Smecker coming and asking about them. Connor and Murphy hand him a bag containing the guns from the two Russians and tells him to hide it, then they head to the police station to turn themselves in. At the station, Smecker is chastising the officers for leaking what they know to the press and as Detective Greenly says that the two brothers are miles away, they walk in the door. Smecker takes them into an office and starts asking them what happened and, in another language, Connor and Murphy discuss if they should tell him about the money and guns they lifted but decide against it. The tell him that after the bar fight, where they had lit Chekov’s ass on fire, they had gone home but Chekov and his partner had burst in the door and had Connor handcuff himself to the toilet while they took Murphy out to the alley to kill him. Connor managed to rip the Toilet up off the floor and carried it to the roof, where he dropped it onto Chekov, killing him, while jumping down onto the other man. Murphy checked on Connor, then took the toilet lid and used it to kill the other Russian, then grabbed both of their weapons and money before grabbing Connor and heading to the hospital. After finishing their story, Smecker asks them if they know any other languages, to which the brothers answer in Russian, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. When an officer says the press is wanting a statement, Smecker says that they aren’t being charged and allows them to stay the night in a holding cell so they can try and avoid the press when they leave. Smecker joins the police chief in giving the statement to the press that the MacManus brothers are not being charged and ruling the matter a case of self defense, while Rocco heads inside to give them a change of clothes and their necklaces. That night, Connor and Murphy have a vision from God telling them to help rid the world of evil men so good men may flourish. As they go to leave, Connor notices a page coming in to the pager he lifted from Chekov and he calls the number, where he is told that the “fat man” will be arriving and where to meet. Later, Rocco attends a meeting with Giuseppe “Papa Joe” Yakavetta, his boss in the Mafia and is given an assignment to carry out in order to advance in the ranks. Meanwhile, Connor and Murphy take the money and jewelry they lifted from Chekov and his partner and use it to purchase some more weapons from an Irish arms smuggler. Later that night, Smecker gets a call about a massacre at a hotel suite and he heads over there, finding Detectives Greenly, Duffy, and Dolly waiting for him. After accessing the scene, Smecker says that there were two men responsible for the crime and does his best to figure out how it went down. Earlier that night, Connor and Murphy show up at the hotel and after donning some ski masks to hide their identities, they climb up into the air vents to make their way towards the suite but as they get lost in the vents, they end up fighting until the vent gives way and they collapse into the suite. The pair are tangled up in the rope Connor insisted on bringing and as the dangle upside down, they are able to use the surprise from their entrance to take out all of the men inside, then assassinate the “Fat Man”. As they are going around taking the money from the victims, they hear a knock on the door and when they look through the peep hole, they see Rocco there wearing a busboy uniform. Deciding to have some fun with him, they put the masks back on and open the door, dragging Rocco inside and scaring him. When they asks him where his gun is, he tells them and they see it is a 6-shooter and they realize that Rocco was set up to die since there were 9 men there total. After revealing who they are to Rocco, who is shocked that they were able to do what they did, they all head to Rocco’s place to hide out and as they are cleaning their weapons, Rocco gets drunks and starts ranting about everything, accidentally killing his girlfriend’s cat when he slams his hands on the table and a gun accidentally discharges. The next day, Connor and Murphy try to get Rocco to realize that he was set up to die but he refuses to believe them and heads off to learn the truth himself. Some time later, Rocco’s girlfriend Donna and her friend Rayvie show up and head over to the couch, and a short while later, Rocco bursts into the room, screaming out that they have to go. Connor and Murphy try to get Rocco to explain what happened and he tells them he had gone to a diner to see if his friends had known he was being set up and when they confirmed it, he killed them as well as the diner owner. After yelling at Donna about her cat, Rocco and the MacManus brothers leave and drive around until Rocco tells them to stop at a club where Papa Joe’s lieutenant, Vincenzo Lipazzi, is known to frequent and they make plans to go in that night. When Lipazzi arrives, the three sneak into the central room of the peep show booths, with Rocco holding the girl hostage and forcing her to tell them which booth Lipazzi is in. Connor and Murphy kill Lipazzi but when they realize that there are two more men in booths on the side, the let Rocco kill them. Later, Smecker, Greenly, Dolly, and Duffy are at the crime scene trying to figure out what happened and Smecker realizes that there are two different killers, the professional ones that killed Lipazzi and the reckless one that killed the other two men. When he learns about the diner hit, Smecker gets even more upset as he can’t seem to figure out what is going on but knows that it isn’t over yet. Elsewhere, Papa Joe meets with the former head of the Yakavetta family and tells him that he needs Il Duce to help deal with the situation he is in and the former head warns him that in 20 years, they only used him 3 times because he is so psychotic. Meanwhile, Rocco is telling the MacManus brothers about a cleaner that Papa Joe uses and how he had to drive for him one night as he took out an entire family. Connor and Murphy agree to take him out and they head to the man’s house on a Saturday, when he has a poker game with several Yakavetta men, and proceed to take them all out. As they are leaving, they find Il Duce waiting for them outside and a gunfight ensues, with Murphy being shot in the arm while Rocco has his finger shot off. Il Duce is forced to leave when he runs out of bullets and Connor and Murphy quickly spray down the blood splatter with ammonia, then leave with Rocco. When Smecker arrives at the scene, he is increasingly frustrated that the killers seem to have thought of everything but as he rants and raves, he finds Rocco’s finger and quietly wraps it in a handkerchief and puts it in his pocket. Elsewhere, Connor, Murphy, and Rocco go back to Donna’s place, where they use an iron to staunch the blood from Rocco and Murphy’s wounds, while arguing about who Il Duce was and how he knew where to find them. Meanwhile, Smecker runs the fingerprints on the finger and when he gets the ID, he realizes where he has seen Rocco before and realizes who the two other killers are and decides to get drunk while trying to figure out what he should do. Elsewhere, Connor, Murphy, and Rocco are watching an interview Smecker is giving on TV and Connor and Murphy warn Rocco that he could be trouble as he is a smart man and could figure things out. Connor and Murphy then head to church and while Rocco waits for them, he sees Smecker stumbling drunk out of the bar and follows him into the church, where he sees Smecker go into a confessional booth. Rocco grabs the priest and forces him into the other booth but Connor sees him doing this and heads into the third booth, pulling Rocco’s head through the window and asks him what he is doing. Rocco tells him that Smecker is in there but as they quietly argue over what Rocco had planned to do, they hear Smecker talking to the priest, saying he is torn on what to do and actually sympathizes with the boys and is somewhat on their side, then when he listens to the father, says that he will try to find a way to help them, surprising Connor and Rocco. After Smecker leaves, Connor, Murphy, and Rocco call Smecker and explain what happened at the cleaners house and ask him to find out who the man while they plan on taking out Papa Joe. Smecker goes to see the former head of the Yakavetta family learns about Il Duce and also that Connor and the others are heading into a trap. At Papa Joe’s house, Connor, Murphy, and Rocco have been captured and Papa Joe ends up shooting Rocco, then tells his men to finish off Connor and Murphy but Connor and Murphy manage to escape their cuffs and take out the man that went in to kill them. Meanwhile, Smecker dresses up in drag and manages to fool one of Papa Joe’s men into letting him in, where he kills two guards but when he finds a third guard has his throat slit, he is knocked unconscious by Il Duce. In the basement, Connor and Murphy are saying their family prayer over Rocco’s body but when they hear a noise, they turn and find Il Duce standing behind them, who finishes the family prayer, revealing that he is their father. Three months later, Papa Joe is on trial, where an acquittal is expected to occur. Smecker opens the back door to the court while Greenly knocks on a police van, signaling Il Duce, Connor, and Murphy to enter the court house, bypassing the metal detectors with their weapons. The three men enter the courtroom, telling the guards to disarm and forcing everyone to the front of the court as they give a speech to the masses, warning that they are only there for those who are evil and then proceed to recite the family prayer before executing Papa Joe. That night, Connor asks how far they will go and their father says as far as needed. The next day, a reporter is talking to people on the street to get their opinion of “The Saints”, with public opinion being divided between those who approve of what they are doing and those who think they are no better than the criminals they kill.
The Boondock Saints didn’t meet with high results from the critics, holding a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A juvenile, ugly movie that represents the worst tendencies of directors channeling Tarantino.” While it was considered one of the hottest scripts around, the movie was a box office bomb, only earning $30,471 off of a $6 million budget. Billy Connolly was so excited to be playing against type in the role of Il Duce, and was having so much fun playing a psychopath, that they had to add the cigar the character constantly smokes in order to hide his constant smile. The poor performance was due to it only getting a severely limited release due to studio politics and fears of it being associated with the Columbine massacre but it would garner a cult following once it hit the video shelves, resulting in $50 million in sells and prompt a sequel to be made 10 years later with a third movie reported to be in the works.
It is violent but this is still a good movie to watch. The acting was really good, with Willem Dafoe (Smecker), Sean Patrick Flanery (Connor) and Norman Reedus (Murphy) doing good jobs in their roles. David Della Rocco was also good as Rocco, though kind of annoying at times, while Billy Connolly really seemed to have fun as Il Duce. The story was interesting, not quite being your typical mobster/revenge movie but putting a rather unique spin on things. I will say that the constant back and forth between the past events of the killings and Smecker’s theories and reenactments got to be a little annoying after a while. The gun fight scenes were not overly graphic for the most part but the constant slow motion with them was a bit overly theatrical and would have been better suited if they had run at normal time more often. Still, this is a lot of fun and one of those movies that is worth watching any time it comes on.
Rating: 4 out of 5