The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Year 2009

Sean Patrick Flanery   as  Connor MacManus  
Norman Reedus as Murphy MacManus
Billy Connolly as Noah MacManus (Il Duce)  
Clifton Collins, Jr. as Romeo
Julie Benz as Eunice Bloom
Judd Nelson as Concezio Yakavetta  
Bob Marley as Detective Greenly
David Della Rocco as Rocco
Director - Troy Duffy
Screenwriter - Troy Duffy

Everything I've written about to this point has been what I've seen on a DVD. But, pay to go to a movie at a theater? Let's see, the last time I did that, I took the family to see Iron Man. (Good movie, by the way.) So what would get to me to shell out $11.00 for a ticket to something that I'll be able to get for the same price on a DVD in about six months?

Well, read my comments on The Boondock Saints and check the fact that it's on the More Than Once list. It was a little movie whose eclecticism made it endearing. A rookie handled both writing and directing tasks. His arrogance, apparently, ticked off H-Wood and he was probably told he'd "never work in this town again".

But now, a sequel comes out. It's the same cast as the original. It's the same writer/director. Would he cave in to H-Wood's cookie cutter approach or would the movie be a more mature version of the original? Ladies and gentlemen! (Mostly gentlemen.) From Canada! (Not H-Wood.) From companies you've probably never even heard of before! (Maybe Kilgore Trout had.) On a budget of $8 million! (James Cameron's lunch money.) It's The Boondocks Saints II: All Saints Day! Yay! Huzzah! (I've been reading Patrick O'Brian.)

Standing in line at the theater and ordering a ticket, I heard the person behind me say, "Boondock Saints?" as if they didn't even realize the movie existed, notwithstanding the fact that it's playing at the same multi-plex. So I know that the only people that are going to be in the theater with me, if there are any other people, are either fans of the first movie or those that heard about it by word of mouth.

In the theater, where there ended up being a couple dozen of us, I have a conversation with another gentleman about why this movie is worth seeing. He said, "It's not going to be too deep or meaningful." I agreed. This is definitely not going to be pretentious. It's going to be able to be enjoyed without having to work at it...I hoped.

In keeping with Troy Duffy's, i.e. Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, approach let's skip to the end.

After watching this movie, the first question is, "Is this as good as the first one?" Yes and no. The movie takes a lot of the good parts of the first movie, follows a similar pace, and has a better ending. If you liked the first one, you'll like the second. If you hated the first, you'll hate this one, too. If you were on the fence, this one might push you over to the happy side.

Starting with what the second movie lacks, the casting comes to mind. Like the first movie, this one uses an ensemble cast to keep things moving.

Let's take a look at the returning members. In the first movie, the only actors I'd heard of were Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly (oh, and Ron Jeremy). The last two weren't given any noticeable billing, so when they showed up in the movie, they were fun Easter eggs. But who were Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Ferry, Brian Mahoney, Bob Marley, Carlo Rota, and David Della Rocco? Never heard of 'em. But boy did they do great jobs in their roles.

This time around, the old mix has been expanded with Julie Benz, Peter Fonda, Judd Nelson, and Clifton Collins, Jr. Guess which one I liked best? Clifton Collins, Jr. Yes, the unknown actor. Like Bob Marley in the first movie, I'd seen Clifton Collins, Jr. before but had never bothered to find out his name. In this movie he's worth remembering for good reasons as he plays out the lines and bafflement of the Rocco character from the first movie.

As for the other actors new to the Boondock world, Peter Fonda overacts, Judd Nelson barely acts (mostly he just fumbles along), and Julie Benz earns a paycheck. Julie Benz as Special Agent Eunice Bloom is the biggest problem with the sequel. She's supposed to the replacement for Special Agent Paul Smeckler (Willem Dafoe). In the first movie, Smeckler stole every scene he appeared in. He became the lynch-pin for all of the wild events. Someone equally compelling had to replace him. That someone was supposed to be Special Agent Bloom.

Where Smeckler was aloof, confident, and competent Bloom is arrogant, abrasive, and ungainly. It's not all the fault of Julie Benz. Her dialogue doesn't always match her character and it doesn't help that when she first meets the returning characters, the guys you like, she has to spout off some sort of chop busting nonsense. Compare this with the first meeting of Smeckler in the original movie when he donned gloves and ear buds, listened to Puccini, zoned out, saw clues other investigating officers missed, settled an air of confusion, and came to conclusions that only he could reach. All of this being done in the middle of Detective Greenly's absurdist interpretations of events.

Bloom's another story. As a Smeckler protégé, she wears the gloves, the ear buds, and zones out. But her conclusions aren't as surprising or pertinent as Smeckler's. Smeckler had you accept him as a superman investigator after the first meeting. Bloom has you saying, "That's it? That's the best you could do?" This failing isn't the fault of the actress.

Bloom doesn't quite grow on you as the film progresses, but you come to accept her.

Julie Benz, the actress playing Bloom, is another problem. She's supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous. In the first scene where she's introduced, the camera focuses on her legs. She wearing high heels and she isn't too clumsy walking in them, but she does not have long, shapely legs. Sorry, Julie Benz is not that hot. If you have fantasies about your best friend's aunt (Julie Benz is probably better looking than your friend's mom, but not that much better looking – about best friend's mom's sister better looking) dressing up in business casual, with heels, and verbally abusing you, then I guess Julie Benz is a good candidate for that "alone time" while you're "practicing" for the real event.

But just when I started accepting Benz in the role, along came a scene where she ruined it. See here for a bit of a spoiler. Even seeing her dressed in a cowgirl outfit when describing the "shoot 'em up" couldn't undo her previous gaffe.

Fortunately, she doesn't control the movie. The MacManus family does.

But, before we get on to the good stuff, let's finish up with the bad. The bad stuff isn't stuff you see, it's stuff that you wish had been shown. In the first movie, Smeckler's private life came out (couldn't resist the pun) a couple of times. Also, so did Rocco's. You met his girlfriend and her friend. A scene regarding "rule of thumb" let you know about the brothers' day job. There was some humanity and the MacManus brothers weren't indestructible. In this sequel, no one has a private life and the brothers are unscathed. The determination for scene inclusion, with two exceptions, appears to be based on whether or not they set up action scenes.

Another thing that bothered me was that no one referred to Noah MacManus as "Il Duce". Also, there were people missing. Not only Agent Smeckler but also Vincenzo Lipazzi (Ron Jeremy) who should have been the Gorgeous George (Bob Rubin) character. The boys' mother Annabelle MacManus is also missing. She was just in outtakes in the original, but she was a character and her picture is shown a few times in this sequel and it would've been nice to have seen her with the family back in Ireland.

Because that's where everyone is at the Ireland...shepherding.

Let's get on to the good stuff. First there's the fact that the director and screenwriter are one and the same. Usually, this is a good thing. Second, there's Troy Duffy's method of telling a story. Practically everything in this one revolves around the gunfights. The way that Duffy does it, he leads you up to the event, jumps to the end, and retells the middle. It works better than you might think. For example, in one scene, you see what the strategist MacManus envisions will happen and then after, what really happened. It's not exactly a one-to-one mapping.

Then there's the attention to detail. Anyone who's read any of my comments realizes that continuity gaffes annoy me to no end. With Troy Duffy, these are so trivial as to be unnoticed. In one scene a character gets smacked in the face with a salami. In the next, there's a dent in the salami about the size and shape of a man's nose. When .50 caliber handguns are discharging their spent shells, those casings are also .50 caliber. You won't see the equivalent of Germans driving Patton tanks in a Troy Duffy movie.

My favorite part of the film, where it seems like everything that has been slow simmering is finally boiling over, is the attack on the Prudential Building. As the brothers approach, there's dialogue reminiscent of that from the gun dealer's room in the first movie. There are the references to "rope", and "Eiger Sanction" replaces "Charlie Bronson", but the chemistry is still there. Meanwhile, Romeo (Clifton Collins, Jr.) is busy exchanging some dialogue with a captured waiter in an attempt to come up with a good tag-line.

Then, the MacManuses are flying through the air and Romeo is bursting into a room, so it's time to stop everything and jump ahead an hour or so. But first, a note on special effects. For the majority of the movie, there's no apparent reliance on green screens. But when the brothers swing into action, it's obvious. The duration of their trip, much longer than a zip line trip, is a symbolic statement that things are about to pop. At least, it worked that way on me.

So, an hour or so after the carnage in movie time, during the police investigation of the crime scene, Bloom comes up with her version. Suddenly, she's on a table top dressed as a cowgirl and announcing, "It was a shoot 'em up!" This is parallel to Smeckler's announcement in the first movie, "It was a firefight!"

The scene now jumps back in time to the actual gunfight and in a wonderfully choreographed sequence, the brothers and Romeo dispatch the hoods. The moves, the camera angles that shift and seem to be part of the music, the expressions, all come together beautifully. (Excellent music throughout, by the way.) Bloom, an observer from the future, makes an appearance as a narrator of the past and even helps Romeo with his tag-line giving him a hint when his first choice, "Who ordered the whup a** fajita?" goes over poorly. His second choice, "Ding! Dong! Mother F*****! Ding! Dong!" isn't any better, in my opinion. (My wife got a kick out of it, though.)

Expect a lot of effing in the movie. Also, a lot of blasphemy (that's too bad, really). Lots of guns being fired. Really dumb, but funny dialogue ("It's not rocket surgery." Or when they get to a safe place, an abandoned pool room, and Romeo thinks having a hideout is great, his childish delight is derided with, "We've got sticks and blankets. You can make a fort.")

There're a couple of scenes worth mentioning because I liked them. In the final shootout, there's a statue of an angel with wings. The wings split and fall off. Perhaps from the gunfire, but there's only a slim chance of a bullet hitting the back of the statue. Instead, it looks like Troy Duffy subtly tried to be symbolic. Nice approach. He didn't zoom in and beat the audience over the head with it, it just happened and, if you paid attention, you caught it.

A second scene reminded me of Boston. Throughout the movie there are a couple of mentions of "wicked" (pronounced wikit) but none of "get bent". Anyway, at the illegal arms trader's store after Romeo has picked out his weapons, there's an expression that must be from Boston. If you think the expression "effeminate handgun" is an oxymoron, you haven't seen Romeo's choice. Romeo, looking for an objective opinion asks the store owner about the perceived homosexual implications of his weapon choice. The reply is, "You look like you might've seen one up close."

There are many paens to the first movie. Greenly has one scene where he assumes his old bumbling self as he tries to imitate Smeckler. Romeo, like Rocco before him, isn’t immediately trusted with a MacManus style gun. There's even a visit from Fluffy, the Exploding Cat when the brothers meet up with Rocco in a dream.

Don't expect a lot of grisly scenes or any nudity. I'm in favor of this "restraint". The movie doesn't need either. In fact, such distractions would take away from the fun.

The theme is a simple, "Everyone talks, but changes come about by people who act."

Make no mistake; this is not a great movie but it does keep moving and is worth seeing more than once, just like the original. It could have been longer with some background asides for the characters and a bit more explanation of the crime scene deductions. It could have introduced the wild Mrs. MacManus instead of leaving her on the cutting room floor of the first movie. It could have tamed down the sex appeal of Special Agent Bloom. Other than those small quibbles, either this sequel or the original movie should be seen at least once by every male.

In case you missed the Saints' first outing, here's some background information from the first movie:

1) Fluffy, the Exploding Cat was black and killed by Rocco in an accidental discharge of a hand gun.
2) Mistress MacManus, the boys' mother, made sure that her boys learned to speak and understand a number of languages.
3) The boys were thrust into their roles because of problems at Doc's bar and Doc has some form of Tourette's.
4) The boys are fraternal twins.
5) The MacManus family, dad and the two brothers, executed a Russian mob boss in a courtroom with the help of a rogue FBI agent and some police officers.

Back to the "Torn and Frayed" list or the main movie list.