Movies That Matter: The Boondock Saints

There shouldn’t be any lead-in toward my feelings on this movie, so I’ll just say it: I absolutely loathe The Boondock Saints. Like, really, really hate it. It is not by any stretch of the means the worst or most incompetent movie that I’ve seen, but without a doubt one of the vilest and most contemptuously self-satisfied. Director Troy Duffy, brilliantly torn down a’la the Berlin Wall in the little-seen documentary Overnight, thinks all too highly of himself, and by extension so too does The Boondock Saints, a movie neither as clever nor as original as it thinks it is. But for all of my disdain for the film, it’s one that I consider crucial toward developing my tastes and sensibilities as a cineaste and also toward my love for sharing my passion with others. (I never said that this series would focus on films that I loved, after all.)

Yet again we wander down memory lane into my college years, specifically freshman year. (As a total aside, college was a very significant moment in time for me as it concerns my movie loving tendencies. My “awakening”, so to speak, took place in high school but arriving at college, movies went from something I liked to something I obsessed over.) I had a habit of buying DVDs on a regular basis for display and viewing in the dorm suite I shared with three other people; the Suncoast Video located in the Towson Mall was one of my major haunts, a place for me to pick up a wide variety of DVDs on the cheap and without the downside of waiting a week for them to arrive a’la Amazon or the like. I’m not sure what it was that possessed me, on one particular trip, to grab a copy of The Boondock Saints; maybe it was a suppressed memory of a half-favorable Boston Globe review of the film from several years back, maybe it was Willem Dafoe’s mug staring back at me from the case, maybe it was the fact that it was nine bucks and why the hell not. I may never remember why I bought it. But I’ll always remember the events that followed once I did.

Am I overselling things a bit? Maybe.

I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of us, being passionate about movies naturally leads to being passionate about sharing those movies with others. And honestly, that’s a sentiment that can be applied to any sort of hobby or pursuit. We obsess about the things we love and we want to pass that experience on to others. Frankly, I think that’s beautiful, and that’s exactly what The Boondock Saints— current perspective on the film aside– means to me.

College, from start to finish, is a time for networking, meeting new people, making new friends, forging new connections, and generally having just a grand old social time, and in my movie geek fashion I reached out to people by introducing them to  movies I happened to love and which they hadn’t heard of. (Interactions didn’t come about solely by introducing them to new movies, of course, but “so, have you seen [movie title]?” is a pretty good icebreaker in a college setting.) Inevitably this led to me earning a minor status as “the movie guy” and a brief tenure as the campus’ free (and really limited) version of Blockbuster, but it also led to faux-screenings in the space I shared with my roommate, which was large enough to fit a respectable sized Sony television (respectable for a college dorm room, I mean) but still small enough to make things a little close for comfort when trying to squeeze a half dozen or so students in to watch, say, Amelie or Snatch. Together, we were a twenty four-limbed fire hazard, despite half of those appendages being legs, but dammit it was worth it.

None of the movies in my possession drew quite as many Goucher kids to suite 110 as The Boondock Saints, though, nor earned quite the same level of notoriety. Part of this had to do with me– as an impressionable young man, I found myself quite taken by what basically amounts to Quentin Tarantino’s Greatest Hits as performed by a rank amateur who has no business trying to emulate the greats (don’t try a Hendrix solo on stage if you don’t have the chops, kids). I was young. And reckless. I didn’t know any better. And movies like The Boondock Saints easily appeal to the sensibilities of pop film junkies looking for cheap, and not necessarily good, thrills in the form of morally ambiguous violence, which the movie provides in spades. Most of all, the thing’s quotable as hell; even today with the film having fallen out of my favor as far as it has, I still find myself whipping out one-liners about stupid fucking rope, people being serial crushed by huge freaking guys, and of course symbology. All of this plus Billy Connolly quickly turned The Boondock Saints into a movie that I absolutely had to share with as many people as I could as quickly as I could so as to spread the news of its excellence (meaning, what I perceived as excellence) to as many as were willing to listen.

To this day I still puzzle myself over the frenzy I went into over the movie; it’s really not good at all, if the jabs I’ve taken at it in the preceding paragraphs didn’t already give you that impression. But why I liked the movie at one time isn’t as important as what the movie represents to me today. The Boondock Saints is the earliest flick in my memory whose visibility I actively tried to promote; it’s the first time I remember feeling so impassioned toward a movie as to be motivated to lobby for it and raise awareness of its existence. And I think having so much ardor for a film, and being so ecstatic over it, is part of being a cinephile; it’s not just about your personal enjoyment of a movie, but also making a point to hopefully bestow some of that enthusiasm onto others.

Almost a decade later, I wish I’d chosen my horse a little more shrewdly– I certainly have fallen in love with better films, more lasting and impacting films, since going through my Boondock Saints phase, and I hope I’ve done right by them and introduced them to people who cherish them as I do. Be all that as it may, I can’t deny that the film still holds a special place in my heart for giving me the opportunity to experience how gratifying it is to foster joy for movies, or a specific movie, in other people.

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11 thoughts on “Movies That Matter: The Boondock Saints

  1. I don’t hate this movie but certainly, I never really understood why it has achieved such a cult status when it’s honestly not all that good. Nonetheless, I can see why some teenagers and college freshman would get all excited about how “badass” it seems to be…

    • Matt– long time no hear, buddy! Those were indeed the days, man…those were the days. Hope life is being good to you.

      Castor– yeah, I dislike it pretty strongly, but I’ve absolutely seen worse. I just don’t get the fan worship the film enjoys, outside of the two demographics you mention…

  2. It’s a terrible film. Okay so there were plenty of Tarantino copycats going around at the time but this one was just horrid. And you are right that part of that god awfulness comes form the fact that everyone involved clearly thinks they are working on a slice of genius.

    Crap of the highest order… and yet it is one of those films that a large number of people really like.

    • That’s the part that irks me the most. I admire and appreciate confidence in one’s craft and with one’s abilities but there’s a line between confidence and cockiness, which Duffy and co pretty widely stepped over in making Boondock Saints. If you’re ripping off a master like Tarantino and you know it, that’s one thing. If you’re ripping off a master like Tarantino and you think you’re the next big thing in cinema, you’re deluding yourself.

  3. Yeah, it may be stupid and pretty idiotic. But it is so cool to watch with perfect action scenes, and also a couple of awesome performances from the cast. Good Review!

  4. Well it pays to be honest with yourself and your readers. Opinions are what makes being a film fan more fun…going by what you and you alone do or don’t like. Well written Andrew!

    I dig the movie on a purely distracting level. Saw it right after college and for what it was thought it was exciting. Written like Duffy had some Tarantino envy but still came across smart in some ways. It seemed tight in parts but got pretty thin near the end (it also seemed like it was missing about 10 or so minutes after the court scene, but maybe that was just me). Hey, for what it’s worth, it’s fun, and you said it, quoteable as all get out…plus it makes for a good drinking game:P

    • Dan, that’s part of my problem; those action scenes aren’t really all that great, so there’s nothing to reward me for putting up with the general incompetence of the script and the direction.

      Marc, I agree with you completely– part of writing good and insightful criticism is personal honesty and honesty with your readership. Without that you hamper your ability to articulate your feelings on a given movie or a specific movie topic with clarity. As for the movie, I don’t think I can even give it the shreds of credit you do, but maybe a drinking game would work with it– at least then I’d chance not remembering the experience of watching it.

      • Hahaha…some of the worst movies can be made tolerable if you drink and pass out before they’re over XD

        That said, here’s the game: Take a shot of beer everytime they curse and 2 when they drop the F bomb…yeah we never made it more than 15 minutes:P

  5. Oh man. I love this film. I agree it has some elements that are garbage, but on the whole I think it’s terrific – a perfect brain-enema, if you will. Still, you make some solid points and I don’t think I’m going to try arguing with you!

    • Well, we could make a thing out of it! I haven’t seen it in a while so I could do some brushing up, but I just can’t shake that dislike of it out of my skull no matter how much I think about my previous fondness for it.

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