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The Boondock Saints

January 2006 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Overnight / The Boondock Saints
cast: Troy Duffy, Taylor Duffy, Gordon Clark and Jim Crabbe

directors: Mark Brian Smith, Tony Montana

90 / 110 minutes (15) 1999 / 2003
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
In the mid-1990s, Troy Duffy was handed the dream ticket... While he was a bartender and bouncer, Duffy's first script - The Boondock Saints - was bought by Harvey Weinstein, the head of Miramax. Weinstein bought Duffy the bar he worked in and signed him up to direct the film and, along with his band, provide the score. The Boondock Saints was never released at the cinema.

Overnight is the story of what happened and specifically, the story of how fame affected one man. Montana and Smith followed Duffy for eight years, filming everything from the initial flush of success to the final collapse of his relationship with band and studio alike. The result is involving, tragic and at times genuinely sinister.

Simply put, Duffy is a monster. As the film continues we see him evolve from an amiable, coherent blue-collar writer and musician into a man who embodies his own hype. In the space of 90 minutes he goes from swearing undying loyalty to his band to calmly informing them that his film work will always come first. There's a simmering undercurrent of jealousy too, as Troy continually snipes at younger brother Taylor, who he claims can't stand his fame.

All this pales in comparison to the making of the film itself. From screaming matches with the Miramax accountant to arguments with the man himself Duffy never fails to put a nose out of joint. Loud, boorish and belligerent he becomes a genuinely intimidating presence at times, especially in a sequence where he calmly and coldly tells the group and filmmakers exactly how much they owe him. The tension in the room is palpable and for the first time it becomes clear that Duffy is a genuinely unstable individual.

Matters come to a head when Weinstein blacklists the film as a result of Duffy's behaviour and, in a fascinating moment where fiction and reality seem to meet, Duffy and his associate producer appear to have an attempt made on their lives. With the production company in tatters and the band's debut album selling 690 copies nationwide in six months, Duffy and friends return to their lives. The film closes on scenes of them at work and Duffy, filmed from a distance, apparently talking to himself outside a bar.

Overnight is a fascinating, blackly funny and ultimately desperately sad documentary. It's a cautionary tale of what happens to you when everything you ever dreamed of is handed to you on a plate, and the horrible effect this can have. As the quotation that closes the film states; success doesn't change you, it brings out who you really are.

Included as an extra with the documentary, The Boondock Saints itself is a fascinating study not only in films of the time, but in Duffy's state of mind. Following two brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) who become local celebrities after saving their bar from Russian mobsters, the film positively screams mid-1990s. It has the same 'feel' that The Usual Suspects, Se7en and Tarantino's films have; that sense of urban bleakness that's so real it becomes unreal.

Becoming convinced that they've been chosen as agents of God put on Earth to kill wrongdoers, the brothers stock up on weapons and begin a two-man crusade. However as their fame grows, the FBI agent on their case is torn between helping them or hindering them, and the local mobsters break out a terrifying hitman to solve their problem forever.

It's very rare to review a film where almost nothing works. From the opening, portentous sequence of the brothers kissing the feet of a statue during Holy Mass to the closing montage, The Boondock Saints is a film that knows what it wants to achieve but never quite achieves it. The basic idea, of these two slightly crumpled avengers is excellent but almost nothing in its execution does it justice.

Duffy throws plot twists in for no reason other to serve individual scenes, having the brothers be language experts so they can understand Russian one minute and revealing the identity of hitman Il Duce (played by Billy Connolly and one of the few highpoints) the next. To make matters worse, there's no real development of the plot past what's described here. Where Tarantino's films and their ilk used violence and bad language to tell a story, Duffy's Boondock Saints has almost no story to tell. What little there is glorifies the violence the brothers dish out and does so in a uniquely comicbook way, treating the underworld like a videogame where you simply have to kill the next boss to progress.

The film's single moment comes from Willem Defoe as the FBI agent assigned to the case. Given the utterly thankless task of explaining the plot, Defoe spends most of the film walking around the brothers' crime scenes figuring what they did. The final time this gimmick is used, he's actually present in the flashback, participating in the action in a way that's both elegant and interesting. However, not even this can last, and not 20 minutes later, Defoe is dressed as a woman (because, his character being gay, clearly he likes that sort of thing), to break the brothers out of captivity.

Violent, rampantly chauvinistic, and just plain dull, The Boondock Saints is a near perfect guide to what not to do when producing a crime thriller. It makes fascinating watching when viewed with Overnight but on it's own is a waste of time. However, as I write this it seems that the story is not yet over. 'Boondock 2: The Second Coming' is listed as in production on the Internet Movie Database with Duffy and brother Taylor writing and the cast returning. Time will tell whether Duffy has learnt from his mistakes.

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