Saturday, September 29, 2007

So, what's the 'symbology' there?

Don't Cross the road if you can't get out of the kitchen.

I liked
Boondock Saints before it was cool.

Correction: I LOVED Boondock Saints before most people ever heard of it. It's true. There are few things in my life that coincide with what's "cool". This, however, I can safely say I was ahead of the curve. In fact, I may even so boldly make the claim (accurately so) that everyone I know who has seen this film, saw it upon my urging. I found it on a back shelf at a "Ballbuster" video store when they only carried ONE copy. Go there now and there's four or more. It was staring back at me, the brothers, ominously poised with their guns and Willem Dafoe's face hovering in the background. I recognized Sean Patrick Flannery from the "Chronicles of the Young Indian Jones" TV series (yeah...I used to watch it). It was Willem Dafoe, however, that made me pick it up and eagerly read the back for a description. I was instantly intrigued. Less than fifteen minutes into the film, I already KNEW it was going to be one of my modern favorites. A 'cult' favorite if you will.

For those who haven't see the film, let me give you a rough estimation of the story. Two young men, through a random act of violence find themselves compelled to rid their neighborhood of Evil Men. Their breed of vigilante justice has a higher calling as it is God's Work that they believe they are doing, reciting a family prayer over each victim and even blessing their souls once they are dead. They are pursued by an FBI Agent sent in because all of their victims just happened to have hefty dossiers. He is a highly educated, astute detective that cannot wrap his mind about the motives of the killers and finds himself envying them as they, in effect, rid the streets of the very men he has pursued for years but been unable to put away because of legal bureaucracy.
"You know, you Irish cops are perking up. That's two sound theories in oneday, neither of which deal with abnormally sized men. Kind of makes me feel like Riverdancing." - Agent Paul Smecker, who then dances a jig with a smile
For a bare bones explanation that will do, because the details make it so much more interesting - and unique. Each character is so real and alive, none of them fit a stereotypical persona at all. On the surface, perhaps, you see Russian mobsters, the mysterious cut-throat assassin, three dumb Irish cops...but each character fills out so much more than those cookie-cutter rolls. For example, our super-FBI Agent Agent Smecker listens to Opera on his CD walkman (that was before the iPod, children) while examining his crime scenes, dances to it openly as he thinks and is a not so closet homosexual with a hatred for "fags," not a self-hating homosexual, mind you, but a "Real Man" that dislikes the effeminate nature of some gay men; not the kind of characterization that you find in most action/dramas. He's intelligent, and knows it, often smugly mocking the amateurish mistakes of Boston's Best. When he fails to connect all the dots, however, he falls to dramatics like temper tantrums and all-out hissy fits in public - outraged at feeling outwitted. This character of Paul Smecker is truly our narrator. The story is mostly propelled from his point of view as he tries to find these vigilantes and reconcile his feelings of admiration with his sworn duties to the law.
"I put evil men behind bars, but the law has miles of red tape and loopholes for these cocksuckers to slip through." -Agent Smecker, Drunk in church confession

The MacManus brothers, Connor and Murphy never seem to question the validity of their choice to kill. They are holy men by nature, devout and god fearing, attending early mass everyday before going to work at a meat-packing plant. They speak English, Russian, Italian, French, and being catholic, it is possible, Latin as well. They both are exceptional marksmen, just happen to know IRA arms dealers, and have a friend with connections to the very Russian mob that they are killing. Oh...and their father is Il Duce. The Duke. The most revered and feared hitman in Boston history, hired by the mob when it was other mobsters that needed to be killed. The family tradition seems to be the killing of 'Evil Men,' as well as a family prayer which brings to mind the angels of death, a reference made by the father of the brothers MacManus.
"Never shall innocent blood be shed, yet the blood of the wicked shall flow like a river. The Three shall spread their blackened wings and be the vengeful striking hammer of God." -Il Duce
And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord for thee, Power hath descended forth from thy hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out thy command, we shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be. In nomine patris, et filii... [they cock their guns] spiritus sancti." - the brothers MacManus

An interesting technique employed by Troy Duffy, sadly a never-to-be-heard-from-again-debut director, are the news segments interspersed throughout the film to transition as well as the 'Man on the street" interviews that run during the credits asking people what they think of the vigilante killers dubbed "The Boondock Saints." They seem to be fairly genuine reactions that one would encounter on a subject as controversial as vigilante-justice. As a writer and director, Duffy shows a wonderful ability to capture people - real ordinary people in situations not so ordinary. The three Boston cops assisting with Agent Smecker's investigation are men one would not be surprised to encounter working the police department. Det. Greenly, a young, cocky detective whose enthusiasm for the job greatly overshadows any actual ability he has and only seems to highlight his lack of observation and basic logic. Det. Dolly, an older detective whose lost interest in his work,is street smart but not book smart, and is equally intimidated by Smecker's intelligence as he is the man's homosexuality. And Det. Duffy, who could be so much more than he is, but he's grown comfortable being more than the other two with ease, so does not strive to do better. All easily identifiable people, but in no way stereotypical.
Agt. Smecker: [walking through the hotel room] How many bodies, Greenly?
Det. Greenly:
[Smecker gives him a look]
Det. Greenly:
Ah, shit! I forgot about that one! Nine! Nine?
Agt. Smecker: While Greenly's out gettin' coffee, anybody else want anything?
Det. Greenly: Shit.

The relationship that the Brothers have with 'Rocco' (interestingly played by David Della Rocco) not only enables them to commit their crimes of justice, but also hinders them in the act. While Rocco, "The Funny Man", is known for his wonderful sense of humor and witty jokes, he is also often the butt of those jokes due to his uneducated,trusting and sometimes belligerent manner. He's 'just one of the guys,' only he's pushing 45 and they are barely 30. He has a junkie girlfriend that takes advantage of him, works for a mob boss that still has him running packages (traditionally a kids' job), and is mocked by kids young enough he could have fathered them. Seeing the route that Connor and Murphy have gone, he misunderstands the directive behind it and follows suit committing a crime of passion as he outlets his anger and hatred for being mistreated for so many years. He's the loser that everyone knows, and pities. And it is Murphy's pity for him that nearly gets he and Connor killed.
Rocco: Don't shoot, don't shoot. We're on the same side. Boss must've sent me in as backup. I'm Rocco! I'm the funny man. That ain't my name. [His name tag says Jaffar]
Where's your gun? Where's your gun!?
Rocco: I'm the fuckin' funny man! It's right here. Right here. That ain't my real name.
What the fuck? Jeez! [to Murphy] It's a fuckin' six-shooter!
Murphy: there's nine bodies, genius! What the fuck were you gonna do, laugh the last three to death, funny man?
The villains of the story, while given their own individual quirks, are almost immaterial. They are painted as bad men, and no one need question that fact. The mob boss is racist and kills people. His henchman is played by Ron Jeremy...imagine what you will from there (and yes...there is a masturbation scene, though blissfully we see NOTHING). His cronies are large, violent men that would hurt an old man with Tourette's Syndrome and a stutter. They are not stereotypical in only the sense that they are shown in their less scary moments, but regardless they are unquestioningly Bad Men. Troy Duffy makes an interesting point in the film, whether deliberately or not, that while society on a whole can agree whole-heartedl
y upon what makes men evil...we cannot agree on what justice is and therefore, if what these men do is right, or if they to are evil - even if they do no harm to innocents. This is the very question that plagues our narrator, Agent Smecker....the question that unsettles his well kept persona...and drives him to seek God's guidance for the first time ever.

Are Connor and Murphy doing God's work, or merely justifying homicide? When does the Justice System fail to do justice? When do good men cease to be good: through acts of vengeance, or acts of indifference?

So I leave you with the opening of the film, and irony which is more than symbollic in itself.

[the brothers rise from their pews and boldly walk past the Monsignor as he preaches to kiss the feet of Christ on the cross]

Monsignor: [as he sees them] And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.

Connor: [as the brothers exit the church] I do believe the monsignor's finally got the point.

Murphy: Aye


Milena said...

I love Boondock Saints! I love that certain mood and atmosphere that keeps us on our feet from the very beginning ‘till the end. And yes, there is that everlasting question about justice...

Kahl said...

Its one of those films that people bond over! I saw these two VERY DIFFERENT guys in the grocery store - totally strangers - just start chatting because the one guy noticed the other guy's Boondocks tee-shirt. That does NOT happen in Philly. In Europe, maybe...but not around here. it's a rare thing. I think its proof that that film tapped into things with which everyone can identify. That's what makes a movie a classic.

Pity the director/writer fell off the face of the planet. I'd have liked to see more from him.

Sara said...

Wonderful! I absolutely adore this movie - and I hadn't heard of it until my man, who like you has been a major fan of it from the get go, shared it with me 4 years ago.

From what I understand, Duffy's attitude got him on the wrong side of a lot of folks in Hollywood. A shame really as I really wanted to see the sequel to this film, which had been in the works at one time...

Anonymous said...

The Boondock Saints is fan-freakin-tasic!I'm not sure if I completely agree with what they did but I can sure as hell see why they did it!We need a "Conner and Murphy" in every major city....For REAL!I am so glad I saw that movie! It kinda gave me a new out look on life!It came out when i was four so i realy didn't have an interest in it but Now i google it Like every day!It is so great!I LOVE THE BOONDOCK SAINTS!