The Boondock Saints (1999)

“The Boondock Saints” is an extremely over-hyped vigilante thriller that contains no depth beyond its initial macho revenge fantasy, but, despite moments of painful camp, doesn’t have the sense to go all the way as a comedy. It would better serve as a satire on America’s obsession with Machismo posturing and the view that violence is the best way to solve problems than the self-important bloodbath it becomes.

I’m not adverse to revenge movies, even extreme ones. “Taxi Driver” featured Travis Bickle blowing away pimps and thugs, but it was more of a character study than a vigilante movie. “God Bless America” trivialized violence, but it was a satire, and a good one at that. “Dead Man’s Shoes” was a powerful statement on the consequences of violence.

I don’t have any problem with violence in the media at all, except when it is portrayed as an easy way to solve real-life problems. People, I cannot stress this hard enough — there are consequences to violent retaliation and vigilante justice.

If this movie had taken a closer look at the psychological effects of murder on the perpetrators, it might have earned an extra star. But Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) treat their new vocation like a new video game.

Now that I’m done beating you over the head with my Liberal values, let’s talk shop.  “The Boondock Saints” is the story of the McManus twins, two Irish-Catholic brothers who, after killing two Russian mobsters in self-defense, take it as a calling from God to clean the scum out of their crime-filled Boston home town, one criminal at a time.

The way they go about this is utterly unbelievable- they just purchase a bunch of guns and knives and off they go, blasting away thugs like they came straight out of “Duke Nuke’m.” There’s no depth to the McManus boys here — they don’t have a thought in their heads other than the initial need for justice in their crime-filled city.

The only character with any depth is Paul Schmeck (Willem Defoe), an arrogant but brilliant gay cop who hates and fears his fellow homosexuals, even as they find themselves in his bed. I fear this happens far too often, when “straight guys” find the need for man-love, but still aren’t willing to take on the stigma of being gay.

Initially, Schmeck wants nothing more to catch the McManus brothers, who the sympathetic masses have dubbed the “Saints.” But as the Russian Mobsters start dropping like flies, Schmeck starts to believe that maybe the “Saints” aren’t so detrimental after all. This could be an interesting revelation, except for the way it’s done, which is just silly.

Along with Schmeck’s arrogant brilliance and the brother’s gleeful responses to the bloodletting, a lot of hyperkinetic fight scenes proceed. I just didn’t buy our protagonists as badasses, and I’m not a fan of stylized violence unless it is directed by one man: Tarantino. The Russian characters were extremely stereotypical and one of them, Boris, had the corniest lines.

I know I’m going to offend a lot of people with this review, but “The Boondock Saints” wasn’t my cup of tea. Many people may really like it, but I felt it was a simplistic, shallow, and meaningless excursion into something we’ve all felt like doing (vigilantism), but without the courage of its convictions to make us care about it’s characters. And don’t even get me started about a cross-dressing Defoe passing as a woman. Just… don’t.

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