Troy Duffy’s 1999 movie The Boondock Saints stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as Connor and Murphy McManus, a pair of Irish brothers who seem to have had a particularly strict Catholic upbringing. After killing a couple of Russian mobsters in self-defense and being hailed as heroes by their fellow Bostonians, the brothers have a religious experience that leads them to believe that they should become vigilantes. They bring their spooky style of Catholicism to their work, reciting a family prayer while making their kills and placing coins on the eyes of their victims.
The soon team up with Roc (David Della Rocco), their hapless buddy who’s a runner for a local mob boss. After being sent on a suicide mission, Roc decides to use his knowledge of the Boston criminal world to help the McManus brothers choose their victims. Their first victim as a trio is Vincenzo Lipazzi (Ron Jeremy), a minor player who Roc has a personal beef with, but they soon move onto bigger fish. This is enough to frighten Roc’s former boss, who hires the just-paroled Il Duce (Billy Connolly), one of the most ruthless hitmen of all time, to deal with the brothers.
Meanwhile, FBI Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe), who was responsible for letting the boys off on the first killing, finds himself investigating the vigilante murders. When he discovers that the McManus brothers are behind the deaths and realizes that they’re only killing bad people, Smecker finds himself with an ethical dilemma: does he do his job and bring the brothers in, or follow his conscience and let them keep killing bad guys? Following one of the funniest scenes ever filmed in a confessional, Smecker sides with the brothers just in time to assist them in their final assault on Roc’s old boss. By the time it’s all over, the brothers have found their long-lost father, taken out the bad guys, and gained a very Batman: Year One-esque reputation as “The Saints.”
The Boondock Saints falls pretty firmly in the Tarantino-inspired “guys who hold their guns sideways” indie genre that was prevalent in the 90s, but its quirky style makes it stand out. There is a lot of comedy in the movie, some of it dangerously close to slapstick, but it’s all handled in a way that doesn’t detract from the Batman-meets-Reservoir Dogs vibe of the main storyline. Duffy also throws in some interesting film-making, like putting Smeckler into the crime-scene flashbacks as he explains to the other cops what happened and borrowing from John Woo’s “ballet with guns” tradition by scoring several of the larger gunfights with opera music. The careful balance of cool gunfights, comedy, and absurdity is what makes the movie stand out above all the other movies of its type.
The perfect mix of comedy and street-level vigilantism