Like any good cult action flick worth its weight in fake blood and heavy artillery, director Troy Duffy’s 1999 film “The Boondock Saints” was skewered by critics and largely ignored by audiences upon release. Written as a knee-jerk reaction to the crime and moral depravity unfolding just beyond Duffy’s front door, his cinematic ode to vigilante justice took years to garner a solid following. Slowly seeping into the lexicon of frat houses across the nation via limited re-releases and DVD distribution, the bullet-riddled spiritual journey of the MacManus twins eventually drummed up a large enough fan base to warrant the production of “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” an equally entertaining—if not particularly inventive—second installment of the Bostonian retributive crime saga.
The explosive final scenes of “The Boondock Saints” witness twins Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus), joined by their father, Noah “Il Duce” MacManus (Billy Connolly), proclaiming their vigilante mission to the masses—just before spilling the blood of smug Italian mob boss “Papa” Joe Yakavetta in front of a crowded courtroom. “All Saints Day” reveals that the family has since been leading a rather idyllic life in their native Ireland. But as Il Duce says, “peace... is the enemy of memory,” and the twins—sporting a pair of hilariously rugged beards—seem ready to return to a less sedentary lifestyle. They receive their calling when they learn that someone is attempting to frame them for the grisly murder of a well-loved Boston priest, and the boys seize this opportunity to set sail for their former city, avenge the innocent priest’s death, and unleash a second onslaught on the Yakavetta crime family.
Unlike their first foray into vengeance killings, however, Connor and Murphy enjoy the luxury of local celebrity in “All Saints Day,” allowing them to pick off their targets with unusual ease. As a result, the plot manages to coast along with nary a conflict. En route to the states, they encounter Romeo (Clifton Collins, Jr.), a raucous co-worker with loose ties to the underworld, who risks life and limb to join the Saints crew, perhaps intuiting the sidekick position left vacant by Rocco’s death in the first film. Stateside, the Saints’ fame precedes them, and they are immediately offered a secret hideout and new weapons for free.
Most importantly, however, the MacManuses enjoy the unspoken support of the Boston Police Department, which falls all over itself to keep them safe and out of jail as the body count rises. Taking the place of morally conflicted FBI Special Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is his protegé Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz), a sassy southerner who stalks the city in Christian Louboutin stilettos and keeps her gun in a leather holster draped about her svelte waistline. Sharing her mentor’s clairvoyant crime detection abilities, she manages to simultaneously anger and entice her male coworkers while conjuring up nearly flawless crime scene assessments, recreating Dafoe’s investigative astral projection scenes from the first “Boondock Saints.” Benz—notable for her role in the 2008 remake of another cult classic, “Rambo”—gracefully mimes the seedy ballet of underworld gun fights, ducking imaginary bullets while cooing hypotheses to her flabbergasted colleagues.
Left with an absurd amount of plot leeway, “All Saints Day” busies itself engaging in a self-referential elevation of campiness. While a great deal of the humor in the original hinged upon the brothers’ bungled attempts to recreate old action movie scenes, “All Saints Day” makes a conscious attempt to churn out fantastically outlandish fight scenes and hard-boiled, quotable one-liners. Murphy kicks off a killing campaign by cheekily remarking to his brother, “Let’s do some gratuitous violence.” Later, Romeo even threatens to physically harm a hostage if he doesn’t help him come up with a punchy zinger to shout gloatingly after taking out a group of mobsters.
The rabid fan base of “The Boondock Saints” was certainly instrumental in securing the funds necessary to churn out the second installment of Duffy’s crime narrative, and he has acknowledged that the audience’s rabid anticipation and high expectations exerted considerable influence over the making of “All Saints Day.” “There was fear on set. It was almost palpable,” Duffy said, describing the filmmaking process. “Nobody wanted to be the guy that screwed up ‘Boondock Saints’ in any way.” While “All Saints Day” does nothing to mar the original, it does little to distinguish itself from it. Rife with humorous references to the 1999 film, it tends to recycle plot in favor of creating well-choreographed shoot-outs with slick dialogue. Still, Duffy’s greatest fears have not been actualized, as the second round of his Catholicized bloodbath is just as much fun as the first. It just might take a while for everyone else to realize it.
—Staff writer Roxanne J. Fequiere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.