The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
The gang shoots straighter in ‘The Boondock Saints II’
It was 10 years ago that Troy Duffy, a nobody from nowheresville (all right, a Los Angeles bartender originally from New England), got his break when Miramax bankrolled his little Boston-set gangster movie. Then a documentary called “Overnight’’ revealed Duffy to be an abusive on-set monster. Then Miramax dumped him. Then he regrouped and made the movie on half the original budget.
The twist? “The Boondock Saints’’ turned out to be unwatchable. The twist on the twist? It found a raging cult audience anyway.
That’s all the back story you need for “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,’’ a sequel you didn’t ask for but somebody must have. And the surprise is that Duffy apparently spent the last decade learning about filmmaking - little things like where to put the camera and how to structure a scene for baseline coherence. The result isn’t art but it is an improvement: a scurrilous, lowdown, sub-Tarantino action comedy that, unlike the original, doesn’t make you want to claw your eyes out. How’s that for praise?
A recap: In the first “Boondock Saints,’’ moronic but civic-minded Irish American twin brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus waged holy war on Boston’s Italian gangsters with the undercover help of a gay FBI agent (Willem Dafoe) and a hit man who turned out to be the twins’ long-lost father (Billy Connolly). Were the MacManuses saints or sinners? The people of Boston couldn’t make up their minds and neither could the movie.
Dafoe is out of the picture in “All Saints Day,’’ but Connolly is still around, his gray locks flowing like Jehovah’s. He and the boys are living in placid Irish exile when a priest turns up dead in Boston, murdered in the brothers’ signature style. Someone wants them back and back they come, picking up a hyperactive third wheel named Romeo as a partner during a bare-knuckle bout on a container ship. Clifton Col lins Jr. plays this character like Speedy Gonzalez on crack, trying by sheer force of will to break through racist insult to comic inspiration. He almost makes it.
For most of its running time, “All Saints Day’’ plays like a boozy, amiably foulmouthed remedial school reunion: Here are the three stoogelike Boston detectives (Bob Marley, Brian Mahoney, and David Ferry) who aid the brothers; here’s the ghost of Rocco (David Della Rocco), the first movie’s third wheel; here’s doddery old Gerard Parkes reprising his bit as a bartender with Tourette syndrome. The Southie accents feel right even if the movie was filmed (like most of the original) in Toronto.
New characters include Julie Benz as an FBI agent with preposterous motivation and an even more preposterous Southern drawl, Peter Fonda as a mysterious mob figure, and - up from the Brat Pack dead, the hardest working man in direct-to-DVD, ladies and gentlemen - Judd Nelson. Nelson plays the top Mafioso in Boston, so scared of the MacManuses he lives in a panic room, and he still overacts like he just snorted a gram of powdered Brando up his cavernous nostrils.
Occasionally the movie cribs from “The Godfather, Part II’’ - even a cat can look at a king - with flashbacks of Connolly’s character in his apprentice hit man days. To his credit, Duffy doesn’t embarrass himself with the period ambiance or the action sequences; that they’re functional represents something of a triumph. “All Saints Day’’ still feels like it was edited with a hacksaw, and the crude comic dialogue still scrapes along the barroom floor, but the general vibe is one of relaxed, murderous high spirits, and the movie’s hardly ever smug.
Why should it be? Troy Duffy proved long ago that you can make an absolutely terrible film and still find an audience. “The Boondock Saints II’’ is a reward for the faithful and no one else, an inside joke that ultimately may be on us outsiders who never played along.