Having loathed 1999's "The Boondock Saints," I was hoping a decade-long absence from filmmaking would somehow magically inject writer/director Troy Duffy with the needed wisdom of hindsight. Perhaps a hulking shot of perspective to build a better "Boondock." Taking an eternity to follow-up his cult curiosity and dorm room staple, whatever was meant to pass for Duffy's filmmaking intuition appears to have calcified long ago, resulting in a turgid, cut-rate sequel that's surprisingly unable to best the insufferable original. The Saints have finally returned, but their fearless leader is as confused as ever.
Hiding out in Ireland under scruffy hair and beards with their father Noah (Billy Connolly, the only redeeming element of these films), brute brothers Connor (an unrecognizable Sean Patrick Flannery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) have retired their hitman ways, sticking to life as farmhands. When a priest is gunned down inside a Boston church, the boys take the offense as a signal to return to business. On their way back to America to commence the slaughter of enemies, the brothers befriend Romeo (omnipresent Clifton Collins, Jr.), a devoted fan who's eager to join the fight. As the Saints try to figure out who's behind the assassination, Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz) has picked up their scent, leading the skittish local cops (Dave Ferry, Brian Mahoney, and Bob Marley) through an exhaustive investigation to figure out a motive, openly wondering why anyone would purposely encourage the Saints to return to town.
Permitted more budgetary coin to work with, Troy Duffy strains far too hard to rekindle the lost "Boondock" chemistry, resulting in an unbearably lumbering film lacking the polish the original picture enjoyed, if only to a certain degree. The years haven't been kind to Duffy, with the 2003 documentary "Overnight" thoroughly exploring his massive ego and self-destructive tendencies while the first "Boondock" was in production. There's been only silence from Duffy between the release of the two pictures, a stillness that's paralyzed his creative development.
If it's possible, "Boondock II" is a more slapdash film than its forefather. Soaked in Bushmills and schoolyard vocabulary, the film is a crude ode to the defiant Irish tough guy stance, with flimsy cursing, inane action choreography, women in yardstick-high heels, and phallic firearm symbolism that perhaps speaks more about Duffy than any of the nonsense contained within the picture. As a director, Duffy pushes the feature further than it should go, squeezing the slapstick comedy and Irish brotherhood material to a point of absurdity. In fact, most of "Boondock II" is ridiculous, but not in the lively, campy way the script is yearning to express. The spirit of the film is trapped in a bad movie phantom zone, where performances rabidly compete for screentime and the story becomes a puzzling tangle of last names and allegiances.
Duffy has preserved the experience for devotees, bridging the ten years with plenty of references, cameos (most, if not all of the cast returns), and general cigarette-smoking smarm to keep fans comfortable, but the general mood of the film is oddly immobile. Even Flannery (at least I think that's Flannery) and Reedus seem a bit confused by the production, fighting to be seen alongside a manically mugging Collins, Jr. and Benz, who slaps on an atrocious southern accent and a push-up bra to recreate Dafoe's apocalyptic energy from the first picture. About the time Duffy dresses Bloom up in cowgirl gear to literalize a western-flavored showdown was when I realized that the director was too caught up in the experience, urging his idiotic style over some sorely needed substance.
The AVC encoded image (2.35:1 aspect ratio) here matches the film's comical/bullying tone marvelously. Detail is excellent all around, with strong facial features to study and potentially lust over (Benz is particularly oiled and tanned up to a lurid degree), while locations are ripe with textures and splinters, making the violence proudly stand out. It's a very clean, pleasant presentation with proper shadow detail to encourage the ominous mood. Skintones are accurate and relaxed, while colors have a certain pop to them, especially when Duffy leads his picture into more vivid surroundings than his normal routine of dark corners. Barroom life retains a homey feel, while outdoor shots reveal a palpable chill in the air.
The DTS-HD 5.1 mix is the very definition of aggressive, with bullets, beats, and bromance competing for your listening pleasure. It's not exactly a screeching cacophony of sounds, but the track is active, sustaining the smash mentality of the direction with strong LFE response for the shoot-em-up sequences, giving the itchy trigger fingers a nice rumble of approval. Dialogue is freshly presented, juggling a wide range of accents and performance speeds. Nothing is ever swallowed. Soundtrack cuts are somewhat overly inflated, especially a mid-movie criminal lair shootout backed by a tinny techno beat, but the less electronically influenced material fits into the mix without a fuss. The mix is a big one, with generous atmospherics and directional activity. French, Portuguese, and Spanish tracks are also available.
English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
There are two feature-length audio commentaries to enjoy/endure, the first with writer/director Troy Duffy, and stars Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, and Sean Patrick Flannery. Hoo-boy, the party is on this track, with the participants spending a majority of the running time cracking jokes, making inside references, and chiding Reedus for being quiet. Only a modicum of production information is shared, leaving plenty of room for a tiresome game of joke-topping with three players who aren't terribly funny (Connolly being the only inspired wit in the room). Flannery and Duffy must've emptied a keg of Red Bull before sitting down to record this, and their hyperactivity is difficult to listen to. I doubt even fans will find much use for this track.
The second track features Troy Duffy flying solo for about an hour, and here's where "Boondock" fans should go to fill up on BTS information. Unlike the first track, where Duffy strained to be the life of the party, this discussion has a noticeably softer, respectful edge, paying tribute to the faithful who apparently made the sequel a reality. Duffy floats a few whoppers during the track (my favorite being the idea that the 10-year gap between movies was completely planned), but he's focused and ready to explore his picture. Willem Dafoe joins the conversation halfway through, helping Duffy along with thoughts on acting and the film's enduring popularity.
"Deleted Scenes" (2:38) offer some body bag hysteria and a moment of chess-board revelation for Romeo
"Unprecedented Access: Behind the Scenes" (25:49) is a scattershot look at the making of the movie, acting more as an erratic production diary than a coherent BTS journey. The tone for the supplement is set early on as the documentary crew observes Troy Duffy turn on the macho afterburners in front of his crew and Clifton Collins, Jr. compares his director to Fellini. Wow. Still, the backstage footage here is tremendous, highlighting on-set happy accidents, the use of "Boondock" fans as extras, and general moviemaking quirks.
"Billy Connolly & Troy Duffy: Unedited" (9:22) showcases a hotel room rendezvous with the director and actor as they recall the early years of their collaboration, the filming experience on the sequel, and Duffy's growth as a filmmaker. The men are in high spirits, making for a charming, if a smidge delusional, conversation.
"The Cast Confesses: Secrets from the Set" (7:13) furthers the promotional mood, with the actors showing off their tattoo additions for the sequel and exploring the general family reunion mood Duffy encouraged while filming.
"Inside the Vault: The Weapons" (8:28) presents head armorer Charles Taylor as he shows off the various guns used in the feature.
"The Boondock Saints Hit Comic-Con" (57:02) observes the cast clowning around on property, hitting the convention floor to sign posters and bathe in the moderate fandom, and hit the stage for a lively panel, bringing along Ron Jeremy for the ride.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
Being his only way to pay bills these last few years, Duffy has built an opening for "Boondock III" into the climax of the picture, so expect more of the same sometime around 2019. If Duffy manages to get the film made sooner than that, I can only hope he allows himself some breathing room to grow as a director. Because of his decade-break desperation, "Boondock Saints II" comes across cringingly rusty; a glorified fan film that only manages to make the popularity of the original picture all the more bewildering.
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