1999's The Boondocks Saints has carried the sobriquet of "cult classic" with legions of fans holding conventions and screenings for the past decade. My interest was more limited, mostly because I've had a DVD of the reputedly-good documentary Overnight, about how the writer-director Troy Duffy got his break to make the movie and pissed it away in a haze of ego not matched by talent, and I figured it'd make more sense after having seen the movie proper. Secondarily, co-star Norman Reedus is now the hot cool dude after three seasons playing Daryl on The Walking Dead. Now, after watching The Boondocks Saints, I'm super in the mood to have a nice bowl of schadenfreude flakes watching Overnight because this movie is a mess and those rabid fans need their heads examined.
I'm not sure what Harvey Weinstein was thinking when he paid $300,000 for the script to this thing from a Boston bartender and then allowed him to direct despite having never made anything or even attended film school, but considering he had Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith in the Miramax stable, that this illiterate mess caught his eye is a head-scratcher. The story is simplistic, the dialog inane, the whole thing sloppy, though with a few charms that help it avoid being a total washout.
Set in Boston, it stars Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery as Irish brothers who work in a meat packing plant. One night, the owner of their favored watering hole tells them that the Russian Mob is buying up properties and isn't renewing the lease. When a pair of Mob goons show up, the crowd at the bar roughs them up badly. When the Russians appear at the brothers cruddy apartment for revenge, they find themselves on the wrong end of that fight and are let go by the cops by reason of self-defense. With a sense of self-righteous justice, they embark on killing off other Russian mobsters, eventually branching out to hitting members of the Italian Mob with their numbers runner pal Rocco, played by David Della Rocco which confused me when they give him a title card introduction.
Duffy uses what he thinks is a clever structure by showing the brothers planning their hit then the cops with FBI Agent Willem Dafoe (more on him in a moment) investigating and theorizing about the crime scene before jumping back and showing us what happened. Duffy does this over and over, but it only works in an interesting fashion once when Dafoe appears in the scene, acting out what happened along with the actual participants. But even that sequence ends with a ludicrous gun fight which makes a late-film twist thoroughly ridiculous. (Also, why would the brothers be carrying ammonia to spray on their spilled blood to make evidence gathering useless?)
What saves The Boondocks Saints from total failure is Dafoe's absolutely off-the-chain performance as the gay, smacktalking, FBI Agent who begins to appreciate what the brothers are doing. I'm surprised I've never heard of this performance before as he cross-dresses and generally freaks out in every scene he's in. He's a hoot.
Reedus and Flannery are bland cyphers whom Duffy figured tattoos, some brief prayers (not the least bit ripped-off from Pulp Fiction *cough*), and thick Gaelic accents would suffice as "characters." In one scene they show off fluency in several languages, but no explanation for this skill is given. It's just some "cool" (again *cough*) business stuck in as trimming on an empty package.
Speaking of empty packages, I purchased The Boondocks Saints Truth & Justice Edition Blu-ray and upon watching it discovered I got the original pressing without the "The Boondock Saints - The Film and the Phenomenon" retrospective feature listed on the packaging. Checking reviews, I see that the old disc had the script and this one does, too. I did a search and found other people reporting getting the wrong disc, too. I'll have to chase Fox down for a replacement. Bother.
Score: 4/10. Skip it unless it's on cable when you're flipping by and Dafoe is getting his crazy on.