Monday, March 15, 2010


Sophomore scenarist & director Troy Duffy has revived Connor and Murphy MacManus for his ultra-violent but often riotous sequel “The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day.” If you missed the original , these two Irish-American brothers who worked in a meat packing factory decided to arm themselves with a pair of silenced automatic pistols and imitate Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” antics. In their case, the MacManus twins believed God had summoned them to serve as his avengers. Moreover, a rogue FBI agent pulled strings on their behalf so Connor and Murphy with their sidekick Rocco could terminate 22 of Boston’s finest criminals. According to Duffy, this 118-minute sequel materialized only because the cult status of the original convinced Hollywood that a second opus was inevitable. Happily, most of the original cast have returned and Duffy’s pro-vigilante message remains intact. Everything that made the first film engaging recurs in “The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day” (**** OUT OF ****), within the constraints of minimal realism. The controversial history of the original movie has something to do with the ten years that it took for Duffy to helm the sequel. Between the release of the original and sequel, a 2003 documentary about “The Boondock Saints” entitled “Overnight” showed what Duffy did to alienate Hollywood. Otherwise, “The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day” qualifies as both an ambitious and entertaining sequel that springs several surprises. Two of the cherished original characters bite the dust. This time around nobody accidentally shoots a cat. If you liked the original, you may enjoy the sequel.

Duffy has the “Boondock” formula down to the bullet holes, but he has made a number of changes. Many involve the replacements for the original characters who don’t return. First, FBI Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) doesn't reprise his role. Second, super sexy, southern-drawling, FBI Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz of "Rambo") replaces Smecker and struts around stiletto high heels. Make no mistake, Bloom ranks as Smecker’s rival when she analyzes a crime scene. Third, although Rocco makes a cameo appearance, Dully replaces Rocco with a goon every bit as hilarious as Rocco. Indeed, Romeo (Clifton Collins, Jr., of "Crank 2") replicates Rocco in most respects, but he exhibits more discipline. Our heroes encounter this outlandish Mexican aboard the freighter that they take to cross the Atlantic. Fourth, Mafioso chieftain Concezio Yakavetta (Judd Nelson of “The Breakfast Club”) serves as the chief adversary this time, and Yakavetta commands an army of trigger-happy hoodlums. Audiences that saw the first “Saints” saga know that our heroes executed Concezio’s father in a courtroom.

Meantime, Duffy preserves other plotlines. The three Boston detectives play a more integral part in this sequel’s shenanigans. They fear that their role in aiding and abetting the MacManus twins in the last courtroom scene will come back to haunt them. Peripheral characters, such as the arms dealer and Doc, the barman with Tourette's syndrome who runs McGinty’s bar, reappear along with the Boston Chief of Police. Not only does Duffy recycle the best parts of the original, but he has also gone in and fleshed out the most enigmatic character for the original, II Duce (Billy Connolly), and furnished him with a back story. The back story concerns how II Duce as a youth named Noah who grew up to become a serial executioner after he saw his father murdered before his eyes. This subplot adds a whole new dimension to “The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day.”

Our Irish Catholic vigilante heroes have been living in a self-imposed exile in Ireland herding sheep and rolling their own cigarettes with their long-haired, bearded father (Billy Connolly) with whom they were reunited during the final quarter hour of “The Boondock Saints.” A beloved Catholic priest, Father Douglas McKinney (Dwayne McLean of “Charlie Bartlett”), has been brutally murdered in his own church, and the killer has framed the MacManus twins. Specifically, he imitated their ritual of shooting their victim in the back of the head and placing pennies on the eyes. Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery of “Powder”) and Murphy (Norman Reedus of “Hero Wanted”) cut off their shoulder-length locks and excavate their hardware. They return to their old stomping grounds and vow to kill anybody who had anything to do with the priest’s demise.

Initially, Bostonians are divided over the priest’s homicide. Half of Boston believes the MacManus twins iced the poor cleric, while the other half refuse to believe that their heroes would stoop to such sacrilege. Duffy uses the scenes involving the media to recap the Saints’ exploits from the first movie and their sudden disappearance after the courtroom shoot-out eight years ago. Meanwhile, Eunice wants to feed the hysteria and keep the MacManus twins on the front page until they can find who is at the bottom of the murder. Naturally, Eunice knows Connor and Murphy had nothing to do with the priest’s slaying. At the same time, the mob is incensed about the killing of the priest because it means that somebody wants the Saints back in town. The resolution of this mystery, which involves an enigmatic character called ‘the Roman’(Peter Fonda of “Easy Rider”) fame makes the final half-hour absorbing stuff.

“The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day” bears all the earmarks of the original: audacious gunfights, profanity galore, oddball characters, fractured time lines, and witty but politically incorrect dialogue. Duffy enjoys reversing the chronological order of events. An excellent example of his fractured time line occurs in the Chinese heroin massacre—about 35 minutes into the action--when the cops first investigate the slaughter at a heroin factory and then everything shifts into flashback mode before the massacre. The difference here is Duffy gives us a look at it from the perspective of an exploitation picture. In other words, he stages the shoot-out as if it were part of a 1970s era movie. Our cigarette smoking heroes are riding in a crate atop a fork-lift driven by Romeo. They perform incredible acrobatic feats as they plummet from the crate and then wield two guns a piece like Buffalo Bill to annihilate their adversaries. The film looks old and lacerated. The actual scene with our heroes experiencing a more realistic encounter with the villains ensues after their parody scene. Not surprisingly, the ending leaves everything open for another sequel. Altogether, anybody who calls Duffy a Tarantino clone doesn't have a clue about cinematic artistry and the depth of "The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day."