Even Charles Bronson might counsel the vigilantes in “The Boondock Saints” to light a candle or repeat a yoga mantra.
“The Boondock Saints: The Truth & Justice Edition,” just released on Blu-ray, brings the Brothers MacManus back to kill and kill again in between saying their prayers.
It’s all hooey, of course, served up with flair by writer/director Troy Duffy. Critics weren’t particularly kind to “Saints.” Most film scribes scoff at well crafted vigilante features like 2009’s “Harry Brown.” Imagine their disdain for “Saints," a tale which doesn’t have time for any moral equivalence jibber jabber.
“Saints” remains a good vs. evil steel cage match, a key reason why its legacy endures, warts and all.
Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) kill two Russian mobsters as the story opens, but the police clear them on grounds they acted in self defense.
That “defense” gives them an idea. What if they went around whacking other lowlifes in their Boston neighborhood? They could balance the scales of justice without dealing with red tape or shady lawyers. Wouldn’t they be doing the Lord’s work?
Before you can say “lock and load,” the brothers have whacked a rogues gallery of cretins from the same Russian outfit. They’ve also caught the attention of Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), a crack FBI agent out to stop the brothers before they can tidy up the rest of Beantown.
“The Boondock Saints” takes far too much pleasure in its own mayhem. Every action sequence is staged for those “look how cool we are, Ma” moments. Some, like the brothers dangling from the ceiling to wipe out a room full of baddies, are worth the effort.
But the succession of slow-motion stunts, crumpled bodies, and tough guy posturing gets old, fast. Dafoe rules the film as the hard-charging gumshoe who can recreate a crime scene before his peers have time to pick up the first shell casing. He’s the biggest “name” actor in the production, and it’s easy to see what drew him to these “Saints.” But his character's arc feels insincere, a twist even the talented actor can't make right.
Flanery and Reedus click as the avenging brothers, their brogue wrapping around the salty banter. But there’s little in their characters beyond savagery to admire. And, for all the film’s religious trappings, spirituality never seems a legitimate part of the equation.
The film succeeds chiefly as the manifestation of one’s inner punk, the sense that the world could be right if only the right people went away for good. And Duffy delivers a few memorable scenes away from the gun-play, from the brothers cauterizing their wounds to a cat which meets its maker in bloody fashion.
Those tasty details can’t distract from Duffy’s obvious influences, the Tarantino/Scorsese canon which few can approach, let alone equal.
The “Truth and Justice” edition includes both the theatrical and director’s cut version plus commentary tracks from Duffy and “Saints” co-star Billy Connolly. The best feature for “Saints” fans - do they have their own nickname yet? - has four of the film’s key players jawing about its colorful creation. They joke and interrupt each other like old friends, and share plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes nuggets while they’re at it. For a movie that went from belly flopping in theaters to rocking the home video market en route to cult status, that’s welcome news.