Having been unable to sit through the 1999 "Boondock Saints" in its wretched entirety, I've been surprised to watch it become a massive "cult hit" on DVD. Blockbuster-stoked fan enthusiasm has propelled it into the top 20 of all catalog titles currently on sale, and to number 12 in Blu-ray unit sales. So shut my mouth.
Now comes director Troy Duffy's flatulent sequel, "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day." Ten years in the contemplation! It doesn't feel quite that long to sit through in its wretched entirety (which I did this time), but I still can't imagine any but the most easily entertained being willing to do so.
The new movie opens where the last one left off, more or less. Twin brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus), having fled their native Boston after wreaking vigilante havoc among the local mobsters, are now hiding out in Ireland — in very silly fake beards — with their father (Billy Connolly). We know we're in Ireland because dad wears a big cable-knit sweater and slices potatoes into a little pot over a cozy hearth fire. (And murmurs things like, "Peace, they say, is the enemy of memory.") When word arrives from Boston that a priest has been murdered, and coins placed over his dead eyes (the boys' old calling card), they decide to head back to Beantown to clear their names and wreak more havoc. Along the way they pick up a disciple, a scrappy Mexican-American named Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr. in an alarming mullet), whose specialties are bare-knuckle brawling and pop-eyed buffoonery.
Awaiting these three when they arrive in Boston are a trio of local detectives (their specialty is remarkably bad acting); the new Mafia don, risibly called Concezio Yakavetta (Judd Nelson!); and a spike-heeled FBI agent named Eunice Bloom (the usually charming Julie Benz, of "Dexter" — here, for some reason, doing a drawling, dead-on impression of Kyra Sedgwick's character in "The Closer").
What follows is woefully garbled and tiresome, thanks to the script (by Duffy and his brother Taylor — so memorably abused in the priceless Duffy documentary "Overnight") and the ham-handed direction. There's endless gunfire, of course; and the word "f---" is flung around with a frequency that rivals that of simple prepositions. There are a number of baffling conceptions (Eunice turns up in cowboy garb at one point, twirling a six-shooter) and tedious interludes (like a Russian-roulette encounter between Connolly and a mob hitman). And there are whole scenes that don't play at all — preeminently the one set amid apocalyptic flames and gun-roar in which we meet an aged Mafia overlord who says things like "Eet is in za blood" and turns out, upon close inspection, to be ... Peter Fonda!
Duffy's way with dialogue remains tone-deaf. ("I am so smart," Eunice says at one point, "that I make smart people feel retarded.") And while he continues to preen himself on his political incorrectness ("I hail from colorful people," Romeo notes), it may be time to rein in his homo-anxiety ("Does that amuse you, queerbait?"), or people might start to wonder.
Duffy also pads the action shamelessly. A fantasy scene in which we see our heroes invading a drug factory and blowing away its occupants is immediately followed by the actual invasion, pretty much the same, but with slapstick comic touches appended. Similarly, a chaotic barroom shootout is followed by a pointless slow-motion reprise.
The first "Boondock Saints" movie was dismissed by its detractors as second-hand Tarantino, but that now seems imprecise. This picture is more like third-hand Tarantino — which is to say, second-hand Guy Ritchie. Since Ritchie himself appears to have moved on (his upcoming "Sherlock Holmes" looks pretty cool), there may now be a market vacancy that Duffy can aspire to fill. Harboring any dream larger than that, though, is probably inadvisable.
Don't miss Kurt Loder's review of "Gentlemen Broncos," also new in theaters this week.
Check out everything we've got on "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day."
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