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Let’s Ruin a Movie: Boondock Saints

June 18, 2011

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         The Boondock Saints has managed to slither its way into the status of cult classic for reasons that completely escape me. When the movie was first released, it was panned by critics and ignored by audiences. Hollywood and the American public got it right the first time, but for some reason this absurd movie got a second chance once it went to DVD. And that’s all your fault.

Theater audiences were spared because rookie director Troy Duffy was such a massive asshole that by the time the movie came out, everyone who gave him a chance in Hollywood had completely abandoned him. For those that don’t know the story, Duffy was narcissistic enough to have two of his best friends film him during the entire process. The result is the movie Overnight, which documents every comprehensible way a person could piss away a film career before it even begins.

The amazing thing is how many people in Hollywood originally bought into The Boondock Saints script in a very big way, as documented in the beginning of Overnight. They were very, very wrong. This screenplay is aggressively stupid. And you gave it a second chance, American public. Goddamn you for that.

The stupidity begins early, in the second scene. It takes place in a meat factory, which is where the protagonists, Conor and Murphy McManus, work. They slap each other with meat for a couple minutes, which is actually even gayer than it sounds. Then one of them yells, “Who’s the master?” And everyone laughs, for you see, this is common decorum in a meat factory. This is what you write when you want to establish that your characters are fun-loving, blue-collar types, but you never bothered to create personalities for them. People don’t act like this.

Then we are introduced to a rather large woman who the McManus brothers must train. One of the brothers attempts to explain something or other about meat and says, “The rule of thumb here…” at which point the ponytailed ox-lady goes into a diatribe about how men were formerly permitted to beat their wives with sticks, as long as they were no larger than the width of their thumbs. Are we supposed to believe that this woman has never heard this phrase before? Or does she just give this blowhard-y speech every single time someone mentions it?

I know this seems nitpicky. You like this movie because it has guns and Irish music. Why am I making it all complicated with characters and dialogue? Shoot some shit, show some tits, and let’s roll credits. The problem is that this character is so completely unbelievable that it’s actually distracting. This is her first day on the job. Again, people don’t act like this. How would this character’s interview have gone?

“Well, enormous bull-like womanthing, everything seems to be in order so once we complete the routine background check…”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BACKGROUND CHECK? DO YOU KNOW THOSE WERE STARTED AS A WAY TO KEEP MINORITIES FROM GETTING JOBS?”

I won’t force feed every terrible scene in this celluloid abortion to you because that’s just obnoxious. But just so you don’t think I’m only picking on the laughable stereotypes in the first scene, here are some of the wonderful characters Duffy expects you to believe:

   Rocco – He’s a package boy for the Yakavetta crime family, even though he’s clearly pushing 45. His opening line of dialogue is, “Hey fuckass, get me a beer.” I’m not saying that person doesn’t exist, I’m just saying I hate him. He’s basically everyone you despised in college. It’s the most believable character in the movie.

  Detective Greenly – The lead investigator for the Boston PD in the case of a bunch of crimes that all happen to be committed by the same two guys. This character is so unbearably stupid that if he were to exist in real life it would be impossible for him to put on his pants without tearing his dick off in the zipper and bashing his face against the dresser, causing him to collapse and drown in his own blood. In his first scene he does a weird Ace Ventura impression, complete with Binaca. His sole reason for existing is to create cheap laughs for other characters.

  Agent Paul Smecker – He’s the brilliant FBI investigator who gets inspiration from classical music and can see the details of a fresh crime scene so vividly that they are effectively recreated in front of him. Except for when it matters. Then he blows it totally. He eventually gets drunk and decides that despite all previous signs that he either despises crime or is simply disinterested in anything other than the puzzle of the murder scene, he decides he’s personally obligated to help the McManus brothers. At which point he attempts to aid them by sneaking into Papa Joe Yakavetta’s house as the least believable prostitute ever, seducing a mobster, killing him, killing another mobster, realizing he shouldn’t have done all that weird shit just then, and then sneaking out of the house without actually accomplishing anything. Of course, he still helps the Saints by smuggling guns into a courthouse. It was the cross-dressing that really upset him. It’s the worst written character in cinematic history.

    Papa Joe Yakavetta – If a mobster had sex with your Dad’s financial advisor, Papa Joe would be the bastard child. He’s not intimidating whatsoever, and none of the other characters seem to be totally sure what to make of him. Everyone else in his mob is fat and American, but for some reason he speaks with an “Italian” accent. Every line sounds like he’s singing in Guido. Basically, he’s the Sbarro of mob bosses. Kinda looks like pizza, kinda smells like pizza, but you’re not going to buy it unless someone forces you. I would also like to point out that there is no letter “Y” in the Italian language so the name “Yakavetta” is somewhat unlikely for an Italian.

    The McManus Brothers – They are charming(ish), good looking, intelligent (by comparison), and well-connected. The only time they don’t kill the person they’re after with terrifying efficiency is when they shoot about 400 rounds at their own father, hitting him once in the arm. They live in Boston, hang out with an Italian, hate Russians, and speak with an Irish accent, unless of course they’re speaking Italian, Russian or, for whatever reason, French. And they work in a meat packing factory. None of this explained. At one point, Smecker even asks them directly what the fuck they are doing in a meat packing plant. Cue a perfectly timed interruption for some unimportant bullshit by a no-name cop. There is no hole that Troy Duffy can write himself into that Troy Duffy can’t clumsily stumble out of.

   Il Duce – The McManus brothers’ father, who also happens to be an Irish hitman for the Italian mob, who is only used to kill Italians. He spends most of his time shackled in prison, unless Papa Joe Sbarro needs him to kill someone, at which point he’s paroled for a meatball sub. But no one can call him off until he’s killed the person he’s after, even if the person he’s after is the wrong person and already dead. I made part of that up. I bet you can’t tell which part.

The most masochistically enjoyable part of this awful script is the contrived situations that Duffy must force the characters into in order to get them to move from one plot point to the next. You can actually hear the movie grind to a halt at some points while the characters try to talk themselves into the necessary nonsense that it will take to move the action forward.

One hilarious example happens after the McManus family shootout in which Rocco’s finger gets shot off. Now at this point, Duffy needs Smecker to join forces with the Saints so he must allow him to get a clue as to the identities of these ingenious criminals. In the shootout, blood splatters everywhere. Literally everywhere. Here’s where Duffy’s broken, convoluted brain kicks into high gear.

Instead of just having the police take a blood sample and be done with it, he has the Saints spray everything with ammonia, rendering the blood samples worthless. Which is brilliant, unless you wanted their identities known, in which case it’s the opposite. So instead, he has Smecker flail around, screaming about the impossible genius of these criminals until he falls down in the bushes and discovers Rocco’s severed finger. I think the screenplay actually says, “Smecker flails theatrically in the bushes for no reason at all until he accidentally finds a clue.” Do you still think this movie is worth your time?

At one point, the McManus brothers are in an air duct breaking into a hotel room filled with Russian mobsters when they decide to have an argument about a rope. Now of course this escalates into a wrestling match, which causes them to fall through the ceiling while the rope tangles around their legs and suspends them in midair. They instantaneously pull their guns as they spin around and shoot everyone in the room dead with pinpoint accuracy.

What happened here is Duffy thought up the end of the scene before thinking up the beginning. He figured it would be cool to have his characters spin from a rope and shoot everyone while upside down and hanging from the ceiling. But there’s no real reason anyone would do that on purpose. So it has to be an accident. Given the fact that there’s no reason a perfectly good air duct would fall from the ceiling if it was already supporting two grown men, he had to invent a reason. His reason – an argument over how hot one of them was getting from dragging a rope around. He had already decided they would need the rope so why not just have them argue about that? Script accomplished!

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this movie is how acutely aware of itself it is. Before they go to the hotel to kill the Russians, they go to an uber-secret, weapons stash house. One of the brothers decides to get a rope. Now, we all know they need the rope because they’re going to need to spin from the ceiling very soon. But there’s no reason for the characters to know that. So they justify it by saying that everyone on TV always needs one.

When they sneak into the hotel and find the elevator shaft, one of them comments that it’s “just like television.” Then of course they have the rope related argument in the vent. After they kill everyone, one of them points out that, ‘Hey, good thing we brought a rope.’ WHAT’S WITH THE GODDAMN ROPE? WHY IS THIS SUCH A MAJOR PLOT POINT? At the crime scene, Smecker even says, “You see this in bad television. That James Bond shit doesn’t happen in real life.”

The reason for this incessant bullshit is because Duffy knows how ridiculous all of this is. He has to point it out so it seems like some kind of cultural statement about the absurdity of television and movies rather than just lazy, sloppy writing on his part. Thanks for letting us know that ridiculous television is ridiculous. If only you had presented a reason why this isn’t identical.

        The Boondock Saints is a 17-year-old girl who thinks that’s it’s okay to be a complete bitch because she has a “100% Genuine American Bitch” bumper sticker on her car. Acknowledging her horribly flawed personality exonerates her from having to change. Nope. You’re still a shitty person. And Troy, having your characters point out that your movie is stupid doesn’t make it okay to write a stupid movie.*

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that when Troy Duffy was busy telling everyone he was the smartest, most talented person in Hollywood, amid his original $15 million movie deal (seriously, that’s how much the first offer was worth), he never signed anything giving him rights to DVD sales. So despite the fact that every asshole under 30 thinks this movie is great, he is still poor and stupid. And that’s a happy enough ending for me.

*I could probably write another 5,000 words on all the various glaring problems in this movie, but I’ll spare you and just include a list of the nitpicky things that bothered me while I watched…

  • The accents – Good God are the accents in this movie bad. At one point Norman Reedus (one of the McManus brothers, I’m not going to pretend I care which one) goes from American to Irish to Mexican in one sentence.
  • The Yakavetta crime family has the flattest organizational structure in the world. Papa Joe says that if Rocco “goes state, he could bring down the whole East Coast.” Really? He delivers your food and tells unfunny racist jokes.
  • When Smecker is examining the hotel crime scene, he notes that it would take at least two guys to kill this many people in 8 seconds. How does he know how long it took to kill them? Other than his on-again, off-again psychic powers, of course.
  • Why is the former mob underboss, Augustus (also not an Italian name), now a janitor? Why does everyone go to the janitor for advice? How does Smecker know to go talk to him? WHERE IS THIS BATHROOM? CONTEXT TROY GODDAMMIT!
  • At the end, Il Duce tells a young woman she has to watch them kill Papa Joe. “We don’t kill women and children, we just make them watch brutal executions. You know, family shit.”
  • “THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!”
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