Originally released in early 2000, Troy Duffy’s low budget but ultra-violent vigilante/hitman thriller initially arrived in the wake of the horrific Columbine High School massacre so therefore got pretty much buried upon it’s release. Understandably, of course. But since then The Boondock Saints has gone on to attain cult status everywhere. Which is definitely a good thing as it is a darkly funny, exciting, entertaining and brutal film that will please fans of both horror and action thrillers and those that enjoy revenge and hitman-type flicks in general.
The Boondock Saints are two charismatic, fun loving Irish brothers; Murphy (Norman Reedus) and Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) MacMannus who, after killing a couple of members of the ultra-violent Russian mafia in self-defense after a dispute in the brothers’ local pub, decide, after an epiphany, to become vigilante’s and rid the city of Boston, Massachusetts of the organised crime that haunts the city. So far so simple for Connor and Murphy who believe that this is their calling so the easy-going brothers think nothing of securing some big guns and blowing away Boston’s seedy scumbags.
Of course, there is always a spanner in the works in these films and in this case said spanner is FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), a smart, quick-witted and dedicated agent that is on the brothers’ trail every step of the way but seems to always be slightly too far behind them as the MacMannus boys leave a pile of bloody destruction wherever they go. Whether they mean to or not. As you will see, some of the brothers techniques in which they kill people aren’t exactly rehearsed or at the very least, standard, professional hitman level take outs.
This doesn’t stop Connor and Murphy however, who, along with their friend Rocco (David Della Rocco), who also happens to be an errand boy for a local Mafia boss–until he finds out he was sent on a doomed mission that would have surely got him killed–continue on their quest to rid their streets of crime so that the innocent will, hopefully, flourish. What’s more, the brothers are becoming cult heroes in Boston by stopping the crime wave led by the Russians, much to Agent Smecker’s dismay, who by this point will do whatever it takes to catch Connor and Murphy.
Where The Boondock Saints succeeds has a lot to do with Troy Duffy’s script, which is sharp, clever and funny. Making the MacMannus brothers likeable throughout, however, isn’t just down to a clever script. The casting of Reedus and Flanery seems to have been something of a masterstroke as you find yourself getting behind these two dumb but kinda lovable brothers as they blast their way through Boston’s underworld, becoming more dangerous but more popular with Boston’s public as they go on. But the best bit of casting here and no doubt The Boondock Saints’ most memorable character is Dafoe’s Paul Smecker. He’s quick, he’s clever, he’s funny, he’s crazy and ever so slightly camp. But he can also be a threatening badass boss-type when needed. Dafoe combining all these elements is a joy to behold and a highlight of this brutal, b-movie gem.
Despite garnering negative reviews on it’s first release (shame on you, whoever you are!), The Boondock Saints did well enough on home video release and through film fans’ word-of-mouth to get a sequel; 2009’s The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which reunited Reedus and Flannery, and there’s been talk of a third film since 2015. Whether that will actually happen or not is anyone’s guess but for now, celebrate this Arrow Video release as yet again the Arrow guys bring us cult classics to discover or rediscover and in the case of The Boondock Saints, Arrow have blessed us yet again with the blackest of black comedy and beautiful brutality. Oh, and added Billy Connolly!
Extras for this release include audio commentaries by writer/director Troy Duffy and one by The Big Yin himself. Plus there are outtakes and deleted scenes and a reversible sleeve with original artwork by Chris Malbon. First pressings feature an illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Kieran Fisher.
The Boondock Saints is out now from Arrow Video.