Sunday, March 14, 2010


Bartender turned director Troy Duffy’s contemporary action melodrama “The Boondocks Saints” (**** OUT OF ****) bears all the influences of Quentin Tarantino with its ultra-violent shoot-outs, use of profanity, over-the-top situations, fractured time lines and gallery of memorable characters. Two multi-lingual Irish lads from South Boston awaken one day after they hear the Lord tell them to hit the vigilante trail. Actually, despite its far-fetched storyline, “The Boondocks Saints” spouts the message that evil flourishes only when good men look the other way. Duffy hammers this theme home in an early scene when the minister recaps the real-life tragedy of Kitty Genovese. In 1964, Genovese was raped and murdered near her home while thirteen eyewitnesses cowered in either fear or indifference to her plight back and did not intervene. Consequently, “The Boondocks Saints” advocates vigilantism. Unfortunately, whatever credibility that Duffy generates for his message is obliterated by those kinetically staged gunfights, rampant profanity, and the melodramatic plot twists.

Basically, “The Boondocks Saints” is a beer & pizza saga that shows some tolerance for homosexuality because one of its chief characters—an erudite FBI agent—is gay but not gay is an over-the-top way. Sadly, this independently produced actioneer got lost in the politics of its day. According to Duffy, the Columbine massacre prompted the distributers to curb release of the film because of its violent fare. The heroes—who perform primarily good deeds—dress in black like the Columbine gunmen and wipe out Russian mobsters galore. Nevertheless, this ranks as first-rate entertainment if you enjoy gritty gunplay, provocative characters, and some surreal staging. People who love cats may not enjoy “The Boondocks Saints” because a cat is accidentally shot and splattered like a tomato against a wall Of course, the actual cat was never harmed, but some cat lovers cannot differentiate between reality and illusion so this film may leave a dire taste in their mouths.

The Cold War has concluded and Russian criminals have migrated to America and the Russian syndicate is buying up property in Boston, much to the chagrin of some leaseholders, like poor old Doc (Gerard Parkes of “Short Circuit 2”) a barkeeper afflicted with Tourette's syndrome who runs McGinty’s Bar. The patrons are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day when three imposing big bruisers, among them Ivan Checkov (Scott Griffith), walk in to lay down the law and encounter the McManus twins, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery of “The Suicide Kings” ) and Murphy (Norman Reedus of “Deuces Wild”), who precipitate a barroom brawl with them. They tied the biggest Russian to the bar and set his butt on fire. The next day two of the Russians, including burnt butt, barge into their apartment. They handcuff Connor to a toilet and threaten to kill Murphy. Connor rips out the toilet—possible but not likely—and goes to the roof and drops it on the biggest Russian and saves his brother from certain death. FBI Special Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe of “Platoon”) launches an investigation because he is part of the Organized Crime Task Force. Smecker hooks himself up to his portable CD player, pops on his disposable gloves, and analyzes the crime scene to the strains of classic composer Puccini’s operatic La bohème. Although the chronology of the scene is fractured like a Tarantino bloodbath, Duffy appears to invoke the kind of cross-cutting that worked so well for Hong Kong director John Woo so that we get to see both the crime and the analysis of the crime. Later, when Smecker presents the details of the crime to his colleagues, he is in the same shot with our heroes when they perform their community service.

Our heroes give themselves up and Smecker lets them go and informs the Boston press that they killed the Russians in self-defense. Later, our heroes hear voices and believe that the Lord wants them to destroy evil men. The MacManus brothers receive help from one of their loony friends, David Della 'Roc (David Della 'Roc’ of “Jake’s Corner”), who serves as an errand boy of sorts for the Boston mob. He provides our heroes with all the information that they need to start wiping out mobsters with extreme prejudice. Roc is the crazy one of the bunch and he lacks the focus of the MacManus twins. Meanwhile, Smecker investigates each convoluted crime scene and shows the Boston Police, particularly the three detectives on the case, Dolly (David Ferry), Duffy (Brian Mahoney) and Greenly (Bob Marley), why he is such a genius. By now, our heroes have become ‘saints’ in the newspapers, and they obtain a cache of silenced automatic pistols with which to carry out their work. When they ice top-level hoods, Connor and Murphy utter a prayer while they have their victim on his knees and shoot him through the back of the head so that their bullets exit through the eye sockets. Afterward, they place pennies on the dead man’s eyes. Each execution gets wilder and crazier until the mobsters catch up with them. Meanwhile, Smecker has so underestimated the MacManus brothers that he never imagines what they have been doing until Roc loses a finger during a shoot-out and he connects them with Roc. By this time, the mob has declared war on them.

“The Boondocks Saints” is for action-oriented film fans who know they are only watching a movie. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are perfectly cast as brothers and they kindle a lot of charisma as vigilantes in the tradition of Charles Bronson from the “Death Wish” movies. Make no mistake, however, Willem Dafoe and David Della 'Roc’ steal the show. Close behind them in his peripheral role is Gerard Parkes who has only a couple of scenes, but he is unforgettable, especially with his use of the F-bomb and the A-word followed in rapid succession. Mind you, “The Boondocks Saints” is not remotely believable, but it is a terrific, entertaining, action-packed opus with colorful character, blue dialogue, and Duffy’s imaginative staging.

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