The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

Crimes:

  • Treating juvenile, self-indulgent murder fantasies as a religion, and turning religion into one big juvenile, self-indulgent murder fantasy
  • Cribbing endlessly from better films, producing a mishmash of stolen ideas that does Quentin Tarantino proud
  • Endlessly, gleefully, proudly indulging the worst impulses of misanthropic, impotently raging 14-year-old boys everywhere

Defender: On one track, writer-director Troy Duffy and stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and Billy Connolly; on a separate track, Duffy and original Boondock Saints star Willem Dafoe

Tone of commentary: The Duffy-and-actors commentary is a borderline incoherent stew of silly voices, screamed in-jokes, and punchlines repeated over and over. Duffy and Flanery do most of the talking, to judge by their periodic mockery of Reedus’ silence: “Shut the fuck up, Reedus! Do you ever stop talking?” “Oh shit, did Reedus actually say something?” But it’s hard to tell who’s speaking, since they spend most of their time doing wacky character voices, from impressions (John Travolta, George W. Bush) to accents (Cockney, plummy British upper-crust, Italian, Irish) to running-gag characters (a gay stereotype, a sad-sack type midway between Lou Costello and Rodney Dangerfield). Much of the commentary is a series of running gags: Early on, Duffy and Flanery mock Connolly’s supposed habit of evading irritating questions by retreating into a thick accent and mumbling half of any response: “Speak the first half, then eat the second half.” They do this themselves in an exaggerated fashion over and over throughout the commentary (“The best thing about acting is marmble warble mrmble”) and as soon as one of them does it, the others all repeat it again, louder and with more exaggerated mumbles and a more exaggerated version of Connolly’s Scottish accent. Connolly himself repeatedly gets in on the act.

Another running gag involves the phrase “Squeezer to the dome!”, apparently a joke gesture in which someone mimes masturbating, then flinging semen at someone else’s head. Duffy and Flanery love this phrase, and repeat it upward of 50 times throughout the track, in response to nudity, jack-off jokes, people being shot or hit in the head, people having guns held to their heads, characters being generally screwed over, or general sexual excitement. Again, whenever one of them says it, the other repeats it, usually louder and in a different silly accent, and then they bounce it back and forth a couple times, guffawing wildly. Similarly, whenever Connolly’s character, Il Duce, shows up onscreen, Duffy and Flanery work through various mispronunciations—Il Douche, Il Doooose, etc.—in various goofy voices. They also really like the phrase “homo queersicle” to describe any man showing any emotion other than rage or contempt.

One of the few serious points of the commentary comes after the “man-ifesto” sequence of the film, where three characters yell at each other Denis Leary-style about manhood. That prompts a wholly sincere discussion of the “silent majority” of men in America, who “aren’t sharers” (and emotional homo queersicles), they’re just men who show their love for their families by silently working to support them, not by talking to them. “Also, chicks want the door opened for ’em. They do.” “Sure, but they also want to be told ‘I’m goin’ out tonight with the boys, I’ll be back when I’m fuckin’ back.’ They don’t like it when it happens… but in the long run, they don’t want a dude without a sack.”

Duffy is far more sedate on his solo first hour of the second commentary track, in which he talks at length about how sequels suck, and how he wanted to figure out why, and fix it in his own sequel. His unsurprising conclusion is that a good sequel gives fans everything they love over again, but slightly different. He praises and thanks his fans at length, explaining that he owes his success to “one guy who’s a Boondock fan strapping his boy to a chair and forcing him to watch this movie, and an hour and 45 minutes later, you got yourself another droolin’ Boondock fan.” Many of the things he put into the sequel are solely as nods to the fans—for instance, a drinking montage is there because so many fans said they’d love to have a drink with the protagonists.

That said, he doesn’t seem to think his fans are particularly smart; he spends an awful lot of time laboriously explaining his characters’ decisions, actions, and jokes. For instance, Judd Nelson’s character keeps spouting malapropisms, in a running gag seemingly stolen from Johnny Dangerously; Duffy helpfully explains Nelson’s incorrect word choices, adding “‘Benedictator’ is not a word. He meant ‘benefactor.’” He also makes a few wry references to the fact that his fans are obsessive types who knows his film better than he does, and “love to frame-fuck this thing into the ground.” 

In the second hour of the second commentary, Willem Dafoe shows up and is incredibly reserved and laid-back. Duffy gushes over him and attempts to reminisce with him and pick his brain about various things Dafoe did during the first Boondock Saints, but none of his stories ring a bell with Dafoe, who politely demurs. Duffy attempts to interview Dafoe about his career and why he does stage acting; when Dafoe doesn’t have much to say on the subject, Duffy theorizes that creative people like themselves need to keep their creative engines oiled with creative work. He adds “You’ve always been a much more extreme dude than I have been. I mean, like, not eating meat, you’re a vegetarian, doing this weird yoga shit all the time, you go out and do all this stuff.”

Dafoe is politely involved, but seems reluctant to commit to any particular discussion or praise of either Boondock film. About Duffy himself, he says “Troy’s a very energetic director. And he’s sitting next to me, and he’s full of shit a lot of the time, but he knows that, and he makes fun of himself, even. But he’s really kinda sweet. And when you’re actually working on something, he bangs away at it in a really kind of thoughtful way, and I always appreciated that.” Duffy reveals that Dafoe collaborated on several early drafts of Boondock Saints II, in which his character would have had a central part, but complains that they didn’t get to work together more; Dafoe says it “didn’t seem like the time,” and he “didn’t want to work from a sequel energy.” Both men agree, seriously and as though discovering the wheel for the first time, that most sequels aren’t particularly good because they often come from a place of people just wanting to make money.

Eventually, the second commentary track degenerates into a catch-up session, as Dafoe asks how various people who worked on the first film are doing these days, and Duffy shares what mundane things they’re up to. He does try to get Dafoe to talk about his craziest Boondock fan experiences—Dafoe claims he hasn’t had any—and tries to get him to talk about the film’s lasting appeal. Dafoe responds “I don’t know, I just think for young men, there’s a vigilante fantasy thing. I don’t know, sometimes I scratch my head. I’m not responsible, because I’m the gay detective. Sometimes I’m like ‘Jesus, what is this movie about? What am I involved with here?’”

What went wrong: On both commentaries, Duffy brings up the usual no-time-no-budget complaints; he characterizes BS2 as “much bigger, deeper, and broader” than the first one, but made for only $8 million, which due to inflation was about the same as the first film’s $6 million budget. The small budget and tight shooting schedule “was extremely difficult and time-consuming, and we didn’t always have the luxury of being able to sit down and discuss the scenes with the actors and stuff.” He points out that rehearsing scenes for the first time just before cameras roll “is a very frustrating way for actors to work, by the by. They wanna sit with the director, and they wanna talk about these things, and mark up their scripts and highlight and underline things and make notes for themselves and be prepared. We couldn’t afford that here. We just did not have the time.”

That said, he points out several times in both commentaries that while “actors can turn on you” if they feel neglected, no one did that in BS2 because of the immense pressure to please the first film’s die-hard cult fandom: “People didn’t want to be the person who screwed up Boondock, ’cause they knew fans would find where they lived and burn their fucking house down, man. And that kind of pressure, just for some reason, and that kind of frankly love and respect, it’s like your dad, you know? You know he loves you and respects you, but he’s gotta smack you around sometimes.”

Mostly, Duffy sees the pressure of a fast shoot, limited site access, and no rehearsal as helpful, “even if some producers and whatnot don’t like it… to the Boondock world, it has always been a heavy motivator.” He does make a strange reference to “the massive amount of fraud committed against us” on the first film, which he says he isn’t allowed to talk about “except through lawyers, our favorite people,” but he claims that the studio’s original fraud-related plans for the first film meant that they didn’t care about the outcome, so “a bunch of kids got to make a movie their way,” without interference.

Also on both commentaries, Duffy bitches a lot about shooting the film’s climactic surprise cameo, which attracted hundreds of people to the beach where it was shot; people in boats and on parasails tried to get close enough to see what was going on, and made framing his shot impossible. He had to sign his entire crew to secrecy about the cameo, as well as all the critics and fans who saw early screenings, but “some fucking asshole on Twitter ruined it for everyone” anyway.

Comments on the cast: On the group commentary, all four participants apparently really miss working with Judd Nelson because during production, he used to forward everyone really amazing Internet conspiracy theories and funny videos; they theorize that he spends all his time scouring the web for videos of, say, a man catching on fire, or a redneck accidentally blowing up a table in his home. They reminisce about these videos at some length. Duffy also talks about Nelson as “a very unique actor” who’s “very cool to work with as long as you understand his style, and how he’s very concerned about every single thing he does and says.” Duffy seems vaguely surprised and confused about this “concern” style, but eventually brags that the biggest thing he’s learned in his tenure as a director is that “different actors have different kind of styles.”

In his solo commentary, Duffy also talks a bit about all the comedians he brought in for smaller roles, and how great and funny they were, but how they completely threw off the film’s pacing with their terrific improv bits that had to be cut later, even at the risk of pissing them off. This prompts a long speech about “the dangers and pleasures” of working with comedians, whom he describes as “very volatile and talented people” who, problematically, “can convince you that somethin’s right when it ain’t,” but can also improve a script immensely in execution. He starts to compare this with how actors work, but then distracts himself laughing at one of his own jokes and talking about the people who wanted him to remove it from the film.

But by far the most attention goes to Julie Benz, of Dexter and Angel fame. On the solo half of the second commentary, Duffy explains his initial concerns about her as his female lead: “One thing I was worried about was, on [Dexter] she really isn’t that hot. She comes into her audition, and man, my jaw hit the floor. I could not believe it. She was like a hundred times better-looking than on the TV show, and for the first 20 minutes, I’m just asking her what the hell happened.” He adds that he was worried about her holding her own with the male stars, but that he couldn’t hold her hand and “make it easy on her” with them; he just introduced her to them and left it to her to “earn her keep.”

The group commentary takes a far more horndoggish approach to her appearance, commenting on her hotness every time she shows up onscreen, joking that Duffy should have focused more on her ass, and going off into exchanges like this, again delivered in a variety of exaggerated character voices: “Are we supposed to talk about the movie?” “Fuck that. This movie sucks!” “But I like Julie Benz, though.” “Yeah, she’s great. I’d love to have sex with her.” “Naw, not me, I’d just like to witness the nakedness and make shit up in my head. I panic around women, I do. The jimmy-johnson goes limp and everyfing.”

Later, on a clingy dress Duffy made Benz wear: “She looks good right there.” “Yeah, I love that dress on her. She hated it, cause it was like a $2.39 special, but I was like ‘Trust me, that one’s workin’.”

And still later, when Benz is in disguise, Duffy says: “I remember when she put on this wig, our guy James Brown, our hair guy—he had like nine wigs, and some of them looked really sexy, but when she put that one on, I got a little chubber, so I was like ‘That’s the one!’” 

Inevitable dash of pretension: In the solo half of the second commentary, Duffy talks a lot about how the real test of a good sequel is whether it “throws a curveball” at the audience by putting a twist on the first film instead of just repeating it. He goes on to describe practically everything in BS2 as a curveball. The FBI investigator is female rather than male this time? Curveball. This one focuses on her crime scenes by putting in earplugs instead of listening to music? Curveball! A third Boondock Saint who is Hispanic? Also a curveball! Delving into Il Duce’s history instead of leaving it entirely unexplored? Total curveball. That said, he seems to be pretty sure his audience isn’t bright enough to handle all these curveballs, particularly during the flashback scenes:

“The reason I was concerned is because it’s so foreign to Boondock fans. To suddenly be in 1958 New York where everything’s different. It was another curveball that we were throwin’ atcha, yes, but this time, it was visual. And it was sound, and every—you could just take these out of this movie and put them in some other movie that was a period piece, and it would look, y’know. It was something Boondock fans were not used to, suddenly being thrown back 50 years into the past. So I was extraordinarily concerned about that.” But the fans really wanted to know about Il Duce’s past, he says: “That’s another cue I took from the fan base, and another curveball that they provided for me, sort of free of charge.”

Commentary in a nutshell: Duffy, on how his stars’ new giant back tattoos represent his philosophy on sequels: “Givin’ it to ’em bigger, badder, and better. It might be a little extreme for some, but Boondock Saints ain’t for everybody, so with all due respect, go fuck yourself.”