THE BOONDOCK SAINTS. The divine messengers cleanse the city
Long, long ago, when VHS rental stores were still in operation and DVD rental stores were already functioning (often in the same places), my almost grown-up self and a dear friend of mine raided the resources of the neighborhood film library. Back then, we devoured movies like madmen – Boys Don’t Cry on VCD (2 discs!), Antoine Fuqua’s Bait or Gore Verbinski’s The Rings were some of the more memorable screenings of that era. But if I had to point out a title for which we almost incurred a penalty in the rental store, it was The Boondock Saints.
And what did you pay a penalty for in VHS/DVD rental stores? Most often, it was for keeping the medium for too long. Typically, you would rent it for 24 or 48 hours, but my buddy and I liked The Boondock Saints so much that we watched Troy Duffy’s cult masterpiece three times in a row! And it wasn’t about getting more “value for money” – The Boondock Saints was just something that resonated exceptionally strongly with the minds of maturing men. Here are the two MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus), Irishmen from Boston and devout Catholics, who decide to cleanse their turf of the worst scum in the name of God. They are, of course, pursued by the crazy detective (Willem Dafoe), but it’s not him – the lawman – that we root for the most, but rather these self-proclaimed divine messengers, anti-heroes who ruthlessly take the lives of gangsters, murderers, and rapists, convincing themselves that God has appointed them for this task. Doesn’t that sound incredible?!? I don’t even know what I liked most: the chemistry between the brothers, the excellent supporting cast (David Della Rocco as… Rocco steals every scene!), or simply the vision of dispensing justice and purifying the world of all criminal scum. Because who wouldn’t agree with Rocco, who in one of his many legendary scenes says that “cleaners” like the MacManus brothers should operate in every city?
Boondock Saints has everything it takes to become a cult film – vivid characters, cheesy dialogues, violent scenes, and that drop of madness that characterizes bold and shameless creators. Troy Duffy is a filmmaker who has not made any films other than the story of the MacManus brothers and its sequel, made 10 years later. And yet, thanks to The Boondock Saints, Duffy was somewhat immortalized in the world of cinema – a production that went through many troubles (rejection by Miramax, a lawsuit with Franchise Pictures), barely noticed during its short theatrical run, became a true video market megahit, earning nearly $50 million (on a budget of just $7 million). The sequel made a decade later didn’t have the same edge, but it still guaranteed a dose of hilarious kitsch and chemistry between the actors – Flanery and Reedus, not top-tier actors, excelled in their roles as not-so-bright but morally strong brothers who were not interested in earthly goods but justice and punishment for the wicked. The Boondock Saints is not your typical action movie – it’s a film aware of its campiness, yet well-executed and possessing incredible character. Like the cheesy action movies of the 80s from today’s perspective, it doesn’t aspire to greatness but makes excellent use of its best genre features.
The Boondock Saints, despite being 24 years old, is still a film with an edge, on one hand filled with violence and dark scenes, on the other hand, packed with humor and – as today’s youth says – meme potential. One can only fear that in times when there is increasing extremism in the world, Troy Duffy’s film may be interpreted as an encouragement for taking justice into one’s own hands – and surely not everyone understands it the same way as the MacManus brothers…