Blu-ray Review – ‘The Boondock Saints’ is blood-soaked vigilantism with a darkly comic edge

Cover art for the 2018 Blu-ray release of The Boondock Saints

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 18
UK Release Date: 9th July 2018
Runtime: 104 minutes
Director: Troy Duffy
Writer: Troy Duffy
Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Willem Dafoe, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, Carlo Rota, Ron Jeremy
Synopsis: A pair of Irish brothers decide to embrace vigilante justice in order to clean up the crime-ridden streets of Boston.

 

Though it’s now regarded as something of a cult classic, The Boondock Saints was trashed on its limited cinema release in 2000. Issues with studios and the recent spectre of the Columbine massacre made it rather a less attractive prospect on release than it was when newbie screenwriter Troy Duffy‘s script was bought up as one of the hottest projects making its way around Hollywood. Two decades later, however, it has attained real status as a grim, cult exploitation movie that has a surprisingly comic edge to its still shocking darkness.

The story centres on the McManus brothers, played by The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery – proud owner of officially the most Irish name ever. After a violent encounter with Russian mobsters on St Patrick’s Day, they resolve to rid the streets of Boston of organised crime, embracing their media status as vigilantes and bringing in buddy Rocco (David Della Rocco) to help track down targets. This brings them into the orbit of Mafia don Papa Joe Yakavetta (Carlo Rota), who hires notorious hitman Il Duce (Billy Connolly) to put an end to the brothers for good.

There’s nothing sophisticated about this movie. It couches its characters’ morality in religion, as if that justifies their ultra-violent antics, but there’s really nothing that powers the storytelling other than an ill-defined bloodlust on the part of most of the characters we meet over the course of two hours. It’s easy to see why the movie struggled in the wake of a real life tragedy. However, with the benefit of separation, there’s something darkly funny about the film and that is evidently what has pushed it into the world of cult classic.

This dark comedy manifests most clearly with the performance of Willem Dafoe as Agent Smecker – the sharp FBI agent on the case of the vigilantes. He’s a flamboyant, theatrical man and Duffy gets a lot of mileage out of having him work his way through the crime scenes, often immediately before the viewer is able to see what happened for themselves. This little narrative trick allows for some very entertaining set pieces, most notably as the various detectives, and occasionally Smecker, fail to work out what is going on, throwing out wild deductions. Dafoe is evidently having a terrific time playing the part, and that comes through to the audience.

It’s true that The Boondock Saints is a movie that revels in its own bad taste and it feels like a slightly shabby Tarantino knock-off at times. There is, however, a sense of black humour that runs through the whole thing, distinguishing it from nastier revenge movies like the recent, decidedly humourless Death Wish remake. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it is a lot of fun.

Special Features

Not the greatest, unfortunately, but there are audio commentaries with Duffy and Connolly as well as a hefty selection of deleted scenes and, bizarrely given the subject matter, an outtakes reel.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

The Boondock Saints, despite its perhaps troubling ideas about vigilantism, is an entertaining and silly thriller, helped by some fun performances. Willem Dafoe and a surprisingly dark Billy Connolly are clearly having the best time and, with a handful of moments of ludicrously black comedy, they power the movie to the status of being well worth the price of a Blu-ray.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

The Boondock Saints is available on Blu-ray in the UK now, courtesy of Arrow Video.

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