Saturday, October 31, 2009

Catholic Camp in Toronto... I mean Boston

On some days and with some movies, blogging is an act of masochism. Today is one of those days and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day is one of those movies. Why, oh why, did they ever let Troy Duffy make another movie?

In an earlier piece on Martin McDonagh, I talked about In Bruges as a sort of revisionist Tarantino film – it had humor and ultraviolence and odd conversations, but it had depths utterly lacking in QT's mostly superficial work. Troy Duffy's first film occasionally pretended to mean something, though his dialogue, his cinematography, and his plot were all far weaker than Tarantino "classics" like Pulp Fiction. In the ten years since Duffy made The Boondock Saints – and alienated half of Hollywood – he hasn't improved. If anything, he's moved backwards. The action sequences remain weak, the dialogue is still thoroughly unfunny, and Duffy has removed all the first film's (barely perceptible) nods to moral ambiguity.

There's not all that much to distinguish the second Boondock film from the first, aside from a substantially more ridiculous plot, which is sporadically interrupted by sepia flashbacks to Billy Connolly's character's youth. These flashbacks – ostensibly to the sixties – look like they're taking place in the twenties or thirties. We may be supposed to feel something – the flashbacks tell of the making of an assassin – but they're awkwardly staged, lit, and shot. At least they make more sense than the entirely random dream sequence pep talk Duffy introduces solely so he can bring back a dead character from the first film. But the film's worst moment comes in its final twist and revelation. It involves Catholic assassins (maybe like this?), a celebrity cameo, and a sequel hook. The implied follow-up looks to be even worse than this film.

There are a lot of things to hate in Boondock Saints II, but I think its most galling trait is its fundamental dishonesty. The film's two main "characters" are supposed to be quintessential Boston Irish, but we can only tell because a) they have Latin- and Catholic-themed tattoos, b) they drink a lot, and c) they spend some time as shepherds in Ireland. Troy Duffy tries hard to give the film a Boston identity, but it simply won't happen; he shot in Toronto, and it shows. His cinematic "Boston" consists of stock footage of downtown and a generic skyscraper that stands in for the Prudential Tower. And, to be fair, there's about two seconds of a news report that shows an actual MBTA train. But at least Duffy knows his Boston slang, right? When the film makes a character speak of "Beantown," it's so shoehorned, unnatural, and poorly-delivered that it becomes unintentionally funny. Sorry Troy, but all the spokes have fallen off from your Hub.

As atrocious as Duffy's portrayal of Boston is, his take on Catholicism is far worse. One gets the sense that in Duffyland, murder is some sort of eighth sacrament. All the priests collude in the protagonists' rampages. According to the film's ending, the titular Saints are somehow following the Catholic party line by ventilating mobsters. Damn, I never knew the catechism was so bloodthirsty. Duffy fills his movie with shots (often slow-motion close-ups) of clerics, collars, crucifixes, and confessionals, but it doesn't mean anything. Then again, what does have meaning in this utterly empty film?

Boondock Saints II is, in theory, an action movie. Unfortunately, the action is pretty awful. There're a lot of slow motion shots, but none of them are graceful or interesting enough to justify the slowdown. Most of the the movie's bullets are aimed at the camera; the average shootout is a few shots of the Saints yelling and shooting in silent slow-mo interspersed with reaction shots of mobsters and criminals falling backward. Only rarely do shooters and shot share a frame. There's nothing inventive or intense about the movie's shootouts. They would be far better if Duffy had dropped his slow-motion gimmick – at least then the pain would be over more quickly.

There's plenty more to complain about in Boondock Saints II. Troy Duffy has quite a few misguided beliefs. He seems to think we care about his protagonists' backgrounds. We don't. He believes we have never watched The Closer on TNT, so we won't notice how much Julie Benz (as an FBI agent) rips off Kyra Sedgwick's role in that show. He thinks gross-out humor to make 90's Adam Sandler blush is funny. And worst of all, he somehow imagines that people will want to see a sequel to this film. Saints preserve us.

In one of my first reviews here, I called Taken a "good bad movie." This is a bad bad movie. Perhaps a discerning viewer could enjoy it inebriated or ironically; it could be a midnight double-feature with The Room or the first Boondock Saints. But instead let us hope that the world forgets this film. Somehow, though, I doubt it will. The audience I watched the movie with seemed to really and honestly enjoy it. What ever will become of us?

1 comment:

Jessica W. said...

Besides all the obvious faults seen in the trailers, the main problem is . . .

No Willem Dafoe, No Good