What is a studio to do when a $6 million action production from a new director when it opens in five whole theaters, grossing a measly $30k? Well, they put it out on DVD in an attempt to make back a few bucks…only for it to become a huge cult smash. While the original film was a simple action/comedy style film in execution, the comrade between the brothers is what helped sell the film for many of those who saw it (myself included). With the original just receiving a Blu-ray release a few months prior to the theatrical release of the sequel, many wondered if Sony’s own decision to put it in a limited release would backfire—but 524 theaters later and the $8 million budgeted sequel made a little over $10 million. Now Sony just needs to sit back and wait for the DVD and Blu-ray sales to rack up.
From Troy Duffy, writer and director of The Boondock Saints, comes the much anticipated sequel to the tough, stylized cutting edge saga of the MacManus brothers (Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery). The two have been in deep hiding with their father, Il Duce (Billy Connolly), in the quiet valleys of Ireland, far removed from their former vigilante lives. When word comes that a beloved priest has been killed by sinister forces from deep within the mob, the brothers return to Boston to mount a violent and bloody crusade to bring justice to those responsible. With a new partner in crime (Clifton Collins Jr., Star Trek) and a sexy FBI operative (Julie Benz, TV’s “Dexter”) hot on their trail…the Saints are back!
I’ll be blunt: if you didn’t like the first film or have never seen it, then stay far away from this film. Yes, there are some segments that recap the first film, but the film is really just a giant thank you note to the fans in the way it’s constructed. I have a whole cornucopia of issues to point out (and I will in a few paragraphs), but in the end the real message of this film is…well, I don’t know what it is. Something about not to screw with vengeful brothers, I guess. In the end it doesn’t matter—the film is all just action, action, comedy, action, and more comedy with little else taking up space during the near-two hour run time.
First I need to get my complaints about this film out of the way. Now the first Boondock Saints was not nearly a polished gem or anything—it was just a small film no one had really heard of until it went supernova in the underground cult hemisphere, but it really wasn’t the kind of misshapen mess that this film turned out to be. I know the main draws will be just to see the original cast (along with some newbies) back on the screen, but there’s a lot of rough terrain we have to wade through just to enjoy that luxury. Director Troy Duffy, whose only films have apparently just been the Boondock franchise, makes some very…interesting choices with the film this time around. I don’t know if it’s budget constraints (although he had an extra $2 million this time) or what, but some of the editing in the film was just downright disastrous. I thought something was wrong with my Blu-ray because at one point the movie just seemed like it skipped sequences without any kind of transition. In fact, very few of the scenes had any kinds of transitions. They just seemed to randomly pop up (especially that dream sequence…entertaining as hell, but what a weird way to shoehorn it in there) and the whole film was just terribly disjointed. A little bit more time in the editing room would’ve done this film good.
And a little bit more time in the writing chair wouldn’t have hurt either. The two main new characters, played by Julie Benz and Clifton Collins Jr., were incredibly diverse in their range but…it just felt terribly out of place. Benz’s character especially; the southern accent took a lot of time to adapt to and when you finally accepted it, her character kept doing these crime scene recreations and…it was just very distracting, more than anything. Especially that second to last shootout, with her in a cowgirl getup…great visuals, sure, but…man was it incredibly out of place and strange. It took a long while to just accept the flaws of this film and move on, because it really has an incredible amount of issues to adapt to. I say “adapt,” because as the only other window into the Boondocks universe, we really don’t have any choice but to accept the quirks that this one produces.
Oh and another thing that doesn’t work? The action sequences. Gunplay and excessive violence is always awesome in my book, but the majority of what this film does in that area is just a lot of standing and shooting. And slow motion shooting. And squibs going off. And…well, that’s it. It does that in nearly every sequence. None of them are overly stylized or fancy (aside from the beginning of the aforementioned shootout with Benz in a cowgirl outfit), and the finale especially was incredibly disappointed. Loud music, muted gun noises and lackluster action are really all that describe this film.
So now that I’ve attacked just about every element of the film, was there anything that I did enjoy? Despite the thorough trashing I gave it…I still really enjoyed the film. But moreso as a fan of the first than anything; as a film by itself it’s a complete mess and in need of some serious rework. As a sequel to a cult film from ten years ago, however…it’s pretty fantastic. While the previous film was a lot more serious, this one took things in the other direction with a giant infusion of comedy into the story. There were constant scenes where the entire setup was just a simple joke, but the laughter from the screen was infectious and quickly spread; moreso than anything it was, once again, the interaction between the brothers and their dialogue that made me forget about all the other mediocre things that were going on in this film.
Then of course there was the ending to the film. An interesting way to go with this one (especially since it sets us up for a third film), especially with the return of a character we thought died in the first film. It was a nice little cameo at the end and I have hopes that a third film is made now…just with a bit more spit, polish, and time in the editing room, of course. I enjoyed this one immensely and heartily Recommend it for fans of the previous film, but for the love of God do not even go near it if you haven’t seen or enjoyed the original. There is a ridiculous amount of things that this film did wrong as far as action/comedy films go, but the characters are so likeable (most of them, anyway) that it’s pretty easy to forgive its trespasses into mediocrity.
I scoffed at the sticker on the cover that claimed over “four hours” of extras would be included. I figured they’d count some weird online Blu-ray material as such but…shocks of shocks, it turns out that there is actually well over four hours worth of material on this set. The disc itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case without any fancy inserts or slipcover. Inside is just the disc and the menu system is simple and easy to navigate, with menu sounds, animation, and looping clips.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded transfer. For a modern film it is surprisingly low in detail. The picture isn’t muddy or deformed in any way, but the detail level and bright colors (notably reds) look oddly compressed for a Blu-ray. Not in a DVD compression kind of way either, it just looks very, very soft. I’m not entirely sure what the issue is, as it doesn’t always look the same from one scene to another. Like the film itself, the transfer could’ve used a bit more time to cure and pretty itself up, but overall it’s not too bad…it’s just not all that great either.
Audio, on the other hand, is a boisterous DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Surround channels fly and whiz with bullets and the subwoofer belts out all kinds of notes when it comes to explosions, gun fire and the films rambunctious soundtrack. More often than not it’s going to be the soundtrack you hear hammering away at the floor, but on occasion it’ll be an on-screen effect that forces it to kick you in the chest (at one point someone in the house thought I’d dropped something on the floor…and my subwoofer isn’t even a down-firing one either). Overall it’s definitely a satisfactory aural listen, but the video is rather mixed.
Now…onto the extras! There’s quite a bit here, but I’ll include a quick and dirty list before delving into them (though be warned there is a minor spoiler):
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Troy Duffy, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Connonlly
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Troy Duffy and Willem Dafoe
Deleted Scenes (2:38, SD)
Unprecedented Access: Behind the Scenes Featurette (25:49, 1080p)
Billy Connolly and Troy Duffy: Unedited (9:22, 1080p)
Inside the Vault: The Weapons Featurette (8:28, 1080p)
The Cast Confesses: Secrets from the Set Featurette (7:13, 1080p)
The Boondock Saints Hit Comic-Con (57:02, 1080i)
As you can see we get not only one but two commentaries (the second one of which is a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the film…so either stop reading now or just give in). This is awesome as the commentaries not only include the writer/director behind the film, but also the main stars of it as well. The track with Dafoe is a bit more laid back than the much livelier track with the MacManus clan, but both are well worth checking out for fans of the film. There’s a lot of back slapping for what is really quite a bad film, but it’s just pure popcorn fun to watch most of the time and these commentaries are a byproduct of that.
The remaining extras take a nice behind-the-scenes look of the film’s production, but it’s the Comic Con featurette that’s probably the most revealing. It stirs up a lot of talk on the early stages of the development process and Duffy touches upon just about every topic that’s been brought up about the film. Once again it’s well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series.
There are two deleted scenes as well, but they’re pretty forgettable so no real shame in having them cut. Overall it’s a really solid package and once again Recommended for fans of the series.
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on March 9th.