The Boondock Saints
By Bruce Hall
August 17, 2010
Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.
So where do I start with The Boondock Saints? If you’ve already seen this movie it needs no introduction; you probably already either love it or you already hate it. If you love it I'll bet you’ve already told all of your friends about the film and you've already made most of them watch it with you. I’m also willing to bet that about half of them looked at you like you had plants growing out of your head and asked, “You seriously liked this garbage?” And of course if you hated The Boondock Saints, then you were probably the one wondering how anybody could like such garbage. For better or worse, this is a pretty polarizing flick, less because of the subject matter than because if its execution. It’s almost impossible to remain neutral about this movie because regardless of what you think of it, you’re never going to forget how it made you feel the first time you saw it, and the reasons will vary. For me it is because while Boondock Saints actually has an interesting point to make, you’ll have to dodge so many bullets and dig through so many bodies to get at it you may have a hard time detecting it, let alone absorbing it. So before I talk about the movie itself, I should probably say something about the state of mind you’ll have if you want to enjoy it.
Have you ever eaten an entire pizza by yourself just because you felt like it? Have you ever walked into Best Buy looking for a CD and walked out with an HDTV instead? It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with pizza or even with buying yourself a 52 inch flat screen television just for the hell of it. It’s that indulging in guilty pleasures a little too often can serve to blind you to what’s really best for you. Yet how we feel about that sort of thing probably depends on what we value. When we’re young we just want what feels and tastes good; it’s only later in life when our bodies lose the ability to survive entirely on sugar and adrenaline that we want what’s good for us. Well I am at the point in my life where I feel comfortable saying that not only is The Boondock Saints not good for you, it’s really not even very good. But what’s made the film a phenomenon is the fact that despite having a list of flaws as long as the Patriot Act it largely excels solely as a quirky, sadistically violent urban crime thriller. On the other hand, Saints is more than a little derivative and having been released in 2000, it’s about a five year late entry into the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tarantino Sweepstakes. I know it probably isn’t fair that just about any unconventionally structured, self consciously hip urban crime drama released in the late '90s languished in Quentin Tarantino’s shadow. But if I can close my eyes and replace most of the cast with Sam Jackson, Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen – and get a better film – then it is what it is. Bottom line – The Boondock Saints is a mess, but it is a stylish mess. Channel the pizza loving, ADHD afflicted teenager inside you and you’ll probably enjoy it just fine.