Tag Archives: Vigilantism in Movies

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.

Advertisements

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

Bloody and brilliant, “Dead Man’s Shoes” is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is both a crying shame and a sacrilege, because this is Shane Meadows’ masterpiece — a film that transcends the revenge genre, delivering a heart-pounding, intense story that lets events unfold in a way that is anything but simple.

Richard (Paddy Considine) returns home from military service with no intention of living a nice quiet life and settling down. The target of his rage: a low-rent drug gang that did some terrible things to his borderline simple brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) some time before.

After Richard threatens a drug dealer and later gives him an unsettlingly twitchy apology, the gang of thugs suspect that ol’ Anthony’s brother might be a few screws short of a tool box, but don’t know how to react. Sonny (Gary Stretch), the most sadistic and smartest (and in a group like this, that’s not saying much), takes charge as best as he is able, but they are no match for Richard’s cool-headed brutality and military training.

This is when things get decidedly more ambiguous. What exactly happened to Anthony? What parts of Richard’s viewpoint are unreliable? When he faces the thug who has broken off from the gang and raised a family, Richard grows less and less sure of himself, leading to a shocking conclusion that rivals the majority of thrillers in its freshness and great writing.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Paddy Considine’s performance here is one of the best acting jobs I’ve seen. He makes Richard thoroughly believable and doesn’t stoop to any tough-guy cliches. What Richard lacks in size, he makes up for in calm, calculated violence. His performance is powerful and a testament to lesser-known actors who seem to slip through the cracks all too often.

Toby Kebbell, who gets overlooked all too often is also very good as Anthony, a simple-minded fellow whose naivete proves to be dangerous as he navigates a rough area without his older brother, who he looks up to, to protect him. He is very believable playing a mentally retarded character, and doesn’t overplay his hand or make his character a ham-fisted caricature.

The other actors never match up to Considine’s ferocious portrayal of a vengeful loner, but they do fine on their own. There’s a scene between the reformed drug dealer and his wife that is very powerful and moving, and the thugs do good job as their drug-hazed obliviousness turns to fear.

There is also some humor (mostly derived from the stupidity of the antagonists) and some tender moments between Richard and his brother. “Dead Man’s Shoes” proves there is still some smarts left in the thriller genre, and boy do I love it for that. It benefits from a smart script and a blistering performance from Paddy Considine. Watch it, and you will not be wasting your time. I didn’t waste mine.