With a belief in God on their side, two Irish American brothers set out to cleanse the streets of Boston. Their goal is justified crime, working outside of a system that would pigeonhole them into petty theft, torture and an assimilation into the very problem they seek to destroy. The Boondock Saints, helmed by director Troy Duffy, is an interesting concept. Its grey colour palette makes for a grim series of destinations, and as we litter the backstreets of Boston, it becomes immediately obvious that, whilst the gore and guts of the piece are there for us to bask in, there is no need to take it all too seriously.
Case in point, the marvellous supporting performance from Willem Dafoe. Playing up the hard agent with a few key quirks, The Boondock Saints relies on its ensemble of natural talent and their ability to turn odd cringe into engaging fun. The wince-inducing dialogue is a major issue, and what few scenes there are throughout this that are worthy of note are almost derailed entirely by a very weak script. Competent performances do manage to hold their own in these moments, so the writing never shines through entirely thanks to a Dafoe-shaped blockade. He does well to carry the film singlehandedly, Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery don’t inspire much confidence as a pair who are meant to be identical twins.
Where The Boondock Saints falls apart though is the direction of Duffy. His constant fades to black and lack of voice behind the camera is a stark loss for the film. Rocco (David Della Rocco) is a prime example of this. Darting between the awful comic relief and the unintelligible breakdown of serious crime, it’s a one-note character stretched far too thin. It happens rather frequently throughout, characters who hang around for far longer than they have any right to. They neither give it their all nor provide anything of necessary interest, add about twenty characters that do this often and you get an ensemble trying their best to riff on the worst moments of Snatch, a far more successful, but equally as plodding piece of gory crime comedy that would release a few years later.
Constant “this only happens in the movies” addendum is a severely grating bit, one that crops up from time to time to remind audiences that Duffy’s hackjob nonsense is purposeful and written with this intent in mind, rather than just an accident he could apologise for later down the line. He has made the film he set out to craft, and it will appeal to some with its musical cues and its handling of Dafoe, but anything else outside of that is lost entirely. A sloppy bit of film from the mind of a man who saw a Goodfellas and Bullet in the Head back-to-back and decided he’d give it a go. Fair play to the guy, but his execution leaves a lot to be desired.