Wednesday, February 24, 2010

'Boondock Saints II' is a Terrible, Terrible Movie

Let me clarify something right off the bat - I am not hating on The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day just for the sake of hating on it. Over the years, the original film has become something of a cult classic with a pretty rabid fanbase that remains as defensive as they are passionate about the movie. Conversely, it's also become one of those films that hipster intellectuals have decided is cool to hate. Anyone who pretends to have discerning taste when it comes to cinema probably scoffs at the very mention of the title, whether they've actually seen the movie or not.

I have seen The Boondock Saints... and I don't particularly like it. BUT - I don't hate it either. In fact, I think the reason I dislike it so much is that it had a great deal of potential. It has a really great premise, a pretty solid cast, some very iconic imagery, and a cool title. Seriously. It looks good on a poster. It has all the ingredients for something seriously badass. Not revolutionary, just fun.

Unfortunately, it's all just completely wasted on a (then) first-time director who has no idea how to shoot action scenes, no understanding of pacing or three-act structure, and no clue what the definition of subtle is. But you know what? I get why some people dig it. Even though everything about it is stolen from better films and more talented filmmakers, it still has a really infectious style.

And then there's this God damn sequel...

Before I get into the bulk of this, I need to mention a documentary called Overnight. It chronicles the very quick rise and fall of Boondock Saints writer/director Troy Duffy - beginning with the amazing deal Miramax offered him and ending with him burning all of his bridges and winding up right back in the dive bar he started at. It's the stuff of legend at this point - and this behind the scenes look at The Boondock Saints is also a hell of a lot more entertaining than the actual movie.

The reason I need to bring it up is because Overnight makes Duffy out to be such a horrendous douche that it would be easy to hate anything he did from this point on just because he seems like such a jackass. So of course, that's the point a lot of Saints fans try to make when someone doesn't like these movies: "You don't really hate these movies, you just hate him!" As if I don't know the difference. Look, Michael Mann is one of the biggest assholes in the industry and I still like a lot of his movies. I think Christopher Nolan is pretentious and humorless, but I love most of his stuff. I can place those feelings aside. So even if Troy Duffy were a down to earth and decent guy, his movies would still blow ostrich cock.

Ostrich fellatio > The Boondock Saints II
To be blunt, I can't even believe this sequel is for real. Duffy had eight years to write this script and it still comes across as something he desperately threw together the weekend before they started shooting. Or maybe the problem was he had all that time to dream up loads of ideas and he tried to cram all of them into the same movie. Either way, the result is a plot that is complicated for all the wrong reasons. Right from the get go, the set up exists as little more than an excuse to get the boys (again played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) back into their pea coats and shooting guns.

See, they're living on a farm in Ireland with dear old dad (Billy Connolly) doing their best Brokeback Mountain impressions - but don't you dare make a gay joke bro, because this script is homophobic to the degree that you start to wonder why Duffy's being so defensive about it. Anyways, along comes some uncle we've never heard of to tell them that back in Boston a priest has been killed - and the murderer tried to make it look like the Saints did it. Alright... I'm assuming the brothers knew this priest. He wasn't in the first movie and the film gives me no reason why I should care that he's dead. But the brothers do. Oh baby, they care. Without a word they leave the room, and enter one of the most hilariously bad montages I've seen in recent memory - which includes slow motion shots of both of them showering (but don't make a gay joke, bro).

Look, there's nothing at stake here except someone tarnishing their names (which I'll get into in a second). It's not like they're hiding out in or near Boston and they've been framed for the crime. There's no pressure to prove their innocence before the police hunt them down (they're hiding on the other side of the God damn world). It's not the latest in a series of murders that only they can stop. They don't even seem to have a particularly significant relationship with the victim, so even trying to chalk it up to good old-fashioned revenge is a pretty thin explanation. I'll say it again: THERE'S NOTHING AT STAKE. It's essentially just sticks and stones, but away they go anyways...

We then move to the crime scene where we're reintroduced to the detectives from the first movie - and we discover that in the last eight years they've evidently turned into The Three Stooges. Their characterization in the original was always a little broad, but in the sequel they're full-blown cartoons. Anyways, Willem Dafoe couldn't be bothered to shoot for more than a weekend, so they replaced him with a female protege named Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz). She arrives on the scene and in a couple of seconds determines what anyone with half a brain would have already figured out: the Saints didn't murder this guy. But since Larry, Moe, and Curly were on the case, this is of course a huge revelation to them. So boom - already the Saints names are cleared. They're not wanted for the murder and no one in the city thinks they did it. So, uh... why are they coming home exactly?

But wait! See the movie isn't really about that priest anyways. In fact, forget about the mysterious guy who killed him. He's not actually our antagonist and he'll be dead in a few scenes anyways. See, what the movie is really about is a scenery-chewing Judd Nelson, who plays the son of the main mobster from the first film. He wants revenge for dad's death, so he needs to call out the Saints. Remember... that's his plan... to get them back in Boston. And because this movie thinks that you're as dumb as its characters, that plan works and the Saints finally arrive...

...and immediately start pulling this shit again.
Wait, what?! The Saints are back in Boston??? Oh my God! Everybody hide! Seriously. That's what Mobster Jr. does once he hears that the Saints have returned. He gets exactly what he wanted and then just hides in a panic room. Guess he didn't really think this through. Don't be too hard on him, though - he only had eight years to come up with this plan.

But wait! See, the movie's not really about him either. He's not actually our antagonist and he'll be dead in a few scenes anyways. See, what the movie is really about is this old gangster named The Roman (Peter Fonda) who was apparently friends with the Saints' dad back when they were both kids.

What do you want to bet that Duffy googled "best sequels" and after reading about The Godfather Part II, decided to add in a subplot about Papa Saint's origin story? On an amusing side note, Papa Saint (who is 100% Irish) speaks with an American accent when he's a young man. We learn how Papa Saint became the killing machine we met in the original film - including a sequence dedicated to showing us how the six-holster vest he wears was made (because we were all dying to know... *makes dismissive wanking motion*). The point of all this is to reveal that Papa Saint and The Roman were allies in a war on crime until The Roman betrayed him. Great. So if this is the actual premise of the movie, why was so much time wasted on that other bullshit? Instead of starting with one of these flashbacks and introducing The Roman right away, the audience is asked to endure two other plot threads that ultimately go nowhere. Fonda is only in one scene because so much time has already been wasted on characters that essentially do not matter. 

I could summarize the rest of the movie for you, but honestly I'm just getting angry typing all of this - because essentially none of this fucking matters even a little bit. Subplots are introduced and dropped on a scene by scene basis and I can't even begin to try and tie all of this together because The Boondock Saints II is clearly not interested in developing anything that remotely resembles a cohesive narrative. Here's the bottom line... this never at any moment feels like a deeper mystery with layer after layer being pulled back. It feels like Duffy sat down at his computer and just let his first draft wander any direction he felt the impulse to go - and it really feels like that's the draft they shot. "Nah, fuck this guy who murdered the priest. I don't like where that's going... " Enter Judd Nelson's character. "Nah, fuck this guy, too. We've seen all of this before. I know! How about an old enemy of their father's?" Enter The Roman. There's no set up and payoff. The twists aren't satisfying because they're not earned. They just happen, even when they contradict earlier information or basic common sense.

Here's an example of what amounts to some of the laziest screenwriting you'll ever encounter... Agent Bloom is working with the Saints. We don't know this until halfway through the movie and neither do The Three Stooges (who are also friends of the Saints). You know why Bloom doesn't just tell The Three Stooges right away that they're all on the same team? Because (and this is the exact quote) "a girl's gotta have her fun". You know what that really means? That Duffy probably decided halfway through writing that scene that this development was the only way to move the plot where it needed to go.

Not that the script gives them much to work with, but I'm embarrassed for these actors - many of whom have been good or great in other movies. With the exceptions of Connolly and Fonda, everyone cranks it to eleven and overacts the everliving shit out of every line. The scene where the brothers argue about rope (again) is just awful. There's no other word for it. Not one second of it feels genuine. They're playing to the cheap seats. Oh, and the cops aren't the only ones who are zany cartoons - so are the bad guys. Aside from The Roman, everyone is made to look like a complete and total dumbass. Which begs the question: why should I feel like the Saints are in even the slightest bit of danger? These are not formidable opponents. So once again... NOTHING IS AT STAKE.

They never walk into a room that you know they're not going to blow their way out of (don't make a gay joke, bro). In the first one, there's at least a moment where they're kidnapped and their friend is killed that you think maybe they've gotten in over their heads. When they first meet Il Duce (who later turns out to be Papa Saint), you believe that guy could really wipe the floor with them. They have oppositions to their goal (which was a much clearer and logical one than whatever they're shooting people for this time). That's the daffiest part of this review for me - I'm using the first movie as "the good example"! But that's the sad state of this piece of shit. That's where we're at.

Like I said, the action scenes in the first film were nothing to write home about. It was a lot of creative ideas that just weren't photographed as well as they should have been. This one doesn't even have good ideas. Not only is there barely any action in the film to begin with, but when there is it's BORING. Every single action beat consists of slow motion, techno music, and the Saints standing (or sitting!) in plain view and not getting hit once (until the end when the script requires them to). It also lifts quite heavily from scenes from the first movie. So you get second rate versions of stuff from the original  - which were already second rate versions of stuff from better movies. Everything in The Boondock Saints II is like Michael Keaton's third clone from Multiplicity: a copy of a copy and completely stupid.

It also just feels smaller and cheaper than the original. The settings in the first one seemed real and dirty. We got a sense of the blue collar life in Boston. This one feels like it was shot on sitcom sets. There's also a curious lack of extras, which makes it feel like our main characters and villains are the only people in the city. I learned after watching it that this one was shot in Canada, not Boston - presumably to save cash. Look, it's not like the first one had a gigantic budget, but Duffy did as much as he could with very little. I'm sure some of the blame falls on the cinematographer and production designer - but there's no reason every scene should be so bland and fake looking. And tone wise, this is just all wrong. The first one did a much better job of balancing the humor, action, and drama. This one's a mess. In the last eight years, Duffy seems to have forgotten the very short list of things he actually did right with the original

There were a million directions they could have taken this in. The ending to the first film set up a somewhat intriguing idea that the city was divided on whether or not the Saints were good guys. There were also implications that since they now had some of the police on their side, they were going after bigger game and that the events of the first film were just the appetizer. But nope. Never mind all of that. Let's just recycle everyone's favorite moments from the first movie, find some excuse to string them together, and do it without a fraction of the already minimal creativity exhibited in part one.

In the end The Boondock Saints II is just a crappier version of The Boondock Saints. A movie that already kinda sucked.


Akira Doe said...

I enjoyed the first movie, I've paused the second one 10 minutes in to see if the world was as impressed as I was...

After Starwars Episode one, I was expecting the next two movies to be rubbish, but after the Boondock Saints, and given how long ago that was, I thought there would have been a killer script and the director could have learned a thing or two.

The script (I've only seen 10 minutes of the movie) is horrible! I've seen better characters on YouTube videos...

I'm just a movie goer, never been to film school, not really watched a shit tone of movies either, but this one might be my first "walk out" since seeing... Well, actually I've never walked out of a movie, I've always sat through expecting it, hoping for it to improve.

After only 10 minutes, I fear that is a lost cause for this film.

Anonymous said...

I'll say this I really liked the first Boondock Saint's movie,but I agree the second movie was total crap. I felt like I wasted a hour and however many minutes long the movie was of my life. He tried too much for comedy and made the Saints feel too untouchable. They should have stuck with one antagonist throughout the whole movie and made the plot feel stronger and the character feel more like they deserve/had a reason to return. Also I didn't want to know their fathers past the mystery of why he was locked in the prison with so much security made for a better feel to the movie. This film was made just to have fans get their jollies off yet failed in my opinion. Good job letting the fan base down. -claps-

Christopher said...

I agree... too much goofy comedy. And you're totally right... their father was a lot more interesting when we didn't know too much about him.

Richie Thom said...

It's pretty much Sherlock Holmes and the Game of Shadows, it's sequel.
Awful sequel that just had too much potential, and not to mention, followed a fantastic ORIGINAL film

Unknown said...

I think your all full of shit..npt only was it funny but I liked it. Wasn't as good as the first but no sequels are. #haters #fuckya

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