Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery return as the MacManus brothers in this long-awaited sequel
It’s been a decade since “The Boondock Saints” was released, and over the past ten years, the film has grown from its humble origins as just a little-known, independent action flick to one of the most widely appealing, watch-it-over-and-over-again cult classics of our time. Despite not receiving a legitimate theatrical release, it became an underground hit on VHS and DVD. It’s recognized by cinephiles as one of this generation’s coolest movies, and personally, it’s one of my top 10 favorite films. This status has been attained predominantly through word-of-mouth hype among fans to their friends, whom after being converted spread the message of the Saints to even more. So with such an enormous and devoted fanbase, it’s about time a sequel was made.
To all the devout followers out there, I’m glad to say that our prayers have been answered. Not only is “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” worth watching, it’s completely satisfying and surprisingly just as fun as the first, even improving upon the original in several regards.
In the first movie, Irish fraternal twins Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus were on a mission from God, eradicating the evil men of Boston’s streets with their own vigilante justice. Here, the plot is basically more of that in what’s essentially a reworking of the original (which often only increases the entertainment value of scenes similar to the first) with some new situations, characters, continuations and a higher body count – exactly what an action sequel should be like.
After eight years of peaceful, bearded shepherding in the hills of Ireland, a crime family back in Boston assassinates a priest and makes it look like the work of the Saints, beckoning the MacManus boys to return in hopes of finally killing them. Connor and Murphy answer the call and come back home with a vengeance – along with wily new Mexican sidekick Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr.) – gunning for every single person even remotely involved in the murder. And as they make their way up the ladder eliminating mobsters, the sly, sexy and super smart Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz), the protégé of Willem Dafoe’s cunning FBI agent Paul Smecker from the original, figures out the scenes of their crimes and tries to catch the unstoppable brothers.
With the exception of Dafoe, everyone from the first reprises their roles, which is quite extraordinary considering the 10-year gap between the two. Benz takes the place of Dafoe’s character, and while she isn’t as sensationally irresistible as Smecker was, her southern-accented, empowering and clever Bloom is quite endearing after the initial time it takes warming up to her. And the spunky Romeo proves himself the perfect replacement for the original’s hysterically rowdy companion Rocco (who has an energizing cameo in a manly dream sequence). Collins Jr. has impeccable comedic timing and skillfully delivers gut-busting one-liners, making Romeo the most consistently uproarious character in the film as well as one of the most off-the-wall, lovable sidekicks I’ve seen in years.
But the most effective character expansion in “Boondock Saints II” occurs with Daddy MacManus (Billy Connolly). Besides getting more time to be the second most bad-ass senior citizen around (next to Clint Eastwood, of course), he also receives “Godfather Part II”-like flashbacks revealing his past, which add another layer to the film and help it to maintain the refreshing feeling ever-present in the original.
Flanery and Reedus, who look noticeably older but just as righteous, get along like real twins even more playfully than before. From their rollicking brotherly arguments to their witty conversations and always amusing shenanigans, the audience feels like these two actors have been having this much fun together their whole lives. It seems their close bond has only grown over the decade, thus increasing their likability and camraderie. Whenever the two are onscreen together, everything flows with liveliness and energy, especially their spot-on, Irish-accented dialogue and consistently charming performances.
Yet in a rare departure for a sequel, there’s actually a bit less action in this one than the first. More action sequences would’ve been nice, but at least the humor has been upped to compensate, which is usually just as entertaining as the smaller set pieces. Particularly the references and call-backs to things from the first, such as a rope entry, a cat, the return of the three bumbling detectives and everyone’s favorite Tourettes-afflicted bartender (who spouts the funniest line of the movie) will have fans howling with laughter.
Compared to the original, the vigilante escapades don’t occur quite as early or as frequently in this one, but this somewhat slower pace at the beginning builds all the action in the second half to a much grander, straight-up spectacular, slow-mo shoot-em-up banquet of bad-assery. This pretty much makes “Boondock Saints II” equal parts outrageous comedy and full-blast action flick, so while the opening act takes a little time to really pick up, by the phenomenal finale (a frenzied and dazzlingly destructive shootout in a dilapidated manor) it’s firing on all cylinders.
Writer/director Troy Duffy, whose only other work has been the original movie, thankfully hasn’t lost his talent as a filmmaker since the first “Boondock Saints,” and directs with just as much gusto as before. While this one isn’t quite as incredible as the original, it’s nearly on par with the first, and in no way does it disappoint.
He’s mastered the hip and hilarious, endlessly quotable Tarantino-like dialogue, handles tension deftly in a Russian roulette duel and has developed a knack for awesome style – from the ‘70s blaxploitation grindhouse-like action spoof scene to the over-the-top skyscraper firefight complete with powersliding, dual-wielding, slow-motion shooting. Alongside the carnage, he even balances a solid story that particularly excels in the third act, and seamlessly transitions from comical to serious to just plain kick-ass at the drop of a hat, with a fantastic ending rightfully necessitating a third entry into the series.
This is a movie made for fans, not critics. The tone is appropriately more tongue-in-cheek this time around and the religious overtones aren’t as strong here, but the exhilarating, ballistic action delivers with both barrels blazing and the humor is some of the funniest this side of “In Bruges.” Just like the first, nothing is lost upon subsequent viewings, and it only gets better the more times you see it. Whether you watch the first one religiously or you just enjoy slick, cool films, don’t miss out on this bonanza of bullets.
Praised be the Saints, this is exactly what fans have been waiting for.
Three and a Half out of Four Stars