The Boondock Saints (1999)

“There are varying degrees of evil. We urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over into true corruption, into our domain.”

Justin’s Rating: A four-leaf clover of VENGEANCE!

Justin’s Review: There are two schools of vigilante justice, which I’ll call Superman and Batman. Both schools operate under the justification that while the law and police are generally good and to be supported, they’re just not doing the job right and something else needs to be done. However, while Superman chooses to voluntarily subject himself to the laws of the society he’s trying to protect — by merely capturing and bringing criminals to justice within the bounds of the law — Batman has often considered himself under no such restriction. Batman has placed himself above the law, and generally vowed to do whatever it takes to bring the bad guys down. We’re probably more for the former in our lives but enjoy watching the latter in our movies.

Our two Lucky Charms protagonists of The Boondock Saints are quite the Batman fellows. Irish, witty and religious, brothers Connor and Murph apparently get God’s permission to whack every bad guy in Boston after defending themselves from the Russian mob. Buckle up, this might take a while. There are a lot of bad guys out there.

This is an extremely odd cult flick in that we’re actually encouraged to root both for the police and the criminals (the “good” criminals, that is, not the bad ones). Our brothers don’t start out bad, and within their hearts, they never betray their singular quest even when it puts them in danger by being captured by police they could easily kill. Unskilled and hot-tempered, Connor and Murph seem to receive supernatural aid as they start tracking down and killing mobsters and criminals left and right.

Does this make their acts wrong or right? Whatever you decide, at least we can all agree it’s pretty entertaining.

Torn between approving of the boys’ ability to punish criminals that otherwise go untouched by justice and having to track them down is FBI agent Smecker (Willem Dafoe). He’s smart but a difficult person to put a finger on: he’s antagonistic to the police he works with, he listens to classical music while solving crimes, and at one point, he dresses completely in drag. Dafoe in drag, just a heads-up. In the best bit of this film, we’re introduced to the brothers’ crime scenes after the fact, allowing Smecker to come in, deduce what happened while the crime rages around him in a melded scene combining the present and past flashback. It’s a bit like CSI, but much more interesting. And more Irish.

I didn’t take to an instant shine to this movie the first time around, but movie peer pressure does work wonders sometimes. The Boondock Saints is immensely popular for a film I bet you don’t even remember ever seeing in the theaters. It’s not just the crime, or the gun fights, or the slow-motion bits, or even the vicarious pleasure of living through someone else’s vigilantism. What caps this film off and places it above the noisy crowd of a million gangster/crime flicks is the little touches of oddity (such as one poor cat that accidentally gets shot during a pivotal moment) and the funny, intense bond between the brothers. For a movie that uses so many F-words, this is quotable for decades to come.

Despite being brutal, remorseless killers, you’ll be surprised how much you come to like the brothers. They’re the hard-edged heroes of a hundred video games, the tarnished sword necessary to take down the greater evil. This is The Untouchables for a new generation. What are you prepared to do, when evil’s on its way? Either dress up as a flying rodent or start packing heat with a family member, that‘s what.

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