The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

In a perfect example of how strong DVD sales can give a movie a second chance, 1999's The Boondock Saints made less than $20,000 in a very short theater run only to become a cult hit on DVD.  But success came at a price with a 2003 documentary that showed director Troy Duffy's meteoric rise to success and fall from grace.  Duffy fell completely out of the limelight and didn't make another movie for 10 years until the studios finally asked him to make a sequel for the Saints, 2009's The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

The original is actually a mess of a movie that works because of all its goofy action, cheesy one-liners, and characters that were surprisingly sympathetic.  It was a formula that worked so Duffy repeats it with his sequel.  Not 'repeats' like he continues where the 1st movie left off, but 'repeats' like scene-for-scene with the same humor and action.  With 10 years to work on a sequel and script, this is the best he could come up with?  As a huge fan of the original, this sequel comes across as boring, been there and done that, and generally pretty lazy.  The two vigilante brothers cleaning up society's trash worked smoothly the first time around, but not for a second go-around.

It's been eight years since brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) killed a Boston mafioso in a courtroom full of witnesses with their father, Il Duce (Billy Connolly).  Dubbed 'the Saints,' the trio escaped to Ireland where they tend a small sheep farm, but news reaches them that a priest in Boston was killed in a manner suspiciously similar to how they dispatched their victims.  So either some one is trying to frame them, or two, lure them back to Boston.  No matter the reason, the Saints return to the states with Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr.), basically a Mexican gangster, joining them.  They set their sites on Concezio Yakavetta (Judd Nelson), the son of the mafioso they killed years before.  But not so fast, the Feds get called in with Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz) leading the investigation.

I don't even know where to start with this one.  With a few very small exceptions, nothing really works here.  Two of the original's best characters aren't back -- one died in the first movie, the other makes a very small, very pointless cameo -- but instead of bringing in some new, interesting characters, Duffy creates new versions that are almost identical.  Collins Jr. is funny enough although he's trying too hard as Rocco 2, I mean Romeo.  He acts crazy and bugs out his eyes after every line.  As for Benz, she's the student of Agent Paul Smecker (Wilem Dafoe, he makes the cameo) and basically channels his ability.  Easy on the eyes, but not on the ears, Benz has an accent like nails on the chalkboard and comes across as more annoying than cutesy.

That's not to say they're the ones to blame.  With the brothers, whole scenes are duplicated from the original to show off their dynamic.  The most obnoxious one has them getting into a fistfight right before a hit attempt that of course, goes perfectly even if it wasn't drawn up that way.  Their lines are nothing more than a series of one-liners that don't do much at all, my favorite being Reedus' "Let's do some gratuitous violence."  It doesn't make sense, and haha, we get it, you're addressing us as fans.  And completely unrelated to story or character, as Connor, Flanery doesn't look quite right -- something's going on with his eyes and face.  Connolly is a bright spot as he was in the original, and we do see some great background with him as to how he became the notorious killer Il Duce.

Connolly's subplot is the worthy part of the story, including his relationship with his former partner who eventually turned him in.  SPOILERS STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE TWIST SPOILERS  The partner, now all grown up, is setting up the brothers to get a crack at Connor and Murphy.  In what should have been a cool part, Peter Fonda plays the Roman, an aging gangster trying to right wrongs he's done.  Connolly and Fonda have a great scene together near the finale, but it's undone by a really stupid action scene to close out the movie.  And the capper, Il Duce gets knocked off.  Not cool at all, but it does go along with my "the coolest character always gets whacked" theory.  END OF SPOILERS

The action especially is pretty disappointing, looking more like PG-13 shootouts than the R-rating it was given.  Instead of improving on the top-notch, highly stylized action of the original, Duffy does the same exact thing in terms of storytelling.  Set-up is introduced, fade to black, aftermath, FBI agents analyze scene, and Benz's Bloom explains what happens inserted into the scene.  It was cool the first time, especially with Dafoe's famous "THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!" line, but it's dull here.  As a comparison, watch Benz inexplicably dressed up as a cowgirl in a similar scene. (SPOILERS watch it HERE).  The finale too disappoints mostly because by then the story is a complete mess and makes no sense.  If that's important to you.

For every good moment here in the sequel, they're undone by many more moments that fall flat on their faces.  Awkward unnecessary nudity, some horrific choices in soundtrack playing over the countless montages, and not more than an ounce or two of originality.  The Boondock Saints was a surprise hit, and it seems Duffy tried to do exactly the same thing with his second feature film.

Of course, the final scene is actually pretty cool, and leaves the door open for a third movie.  As much as I loved the first one, I can't help but hope that they decide to let a sleeping dog lie.  Who knows what went wrong?  The tone's too jokey where the original was mostly serious, and the humor falls flat.  There's also countless flashbacks as if to point out, 'hey, remember how good the original was?'  It needlessly calls attention to what could have been. This sequel was awful.

The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day <----trailer (2009): */****

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