With the upcoming third season of The Walking Dead officially less than a month away, I’m reminded of a few years ago when I first watched The Boondock Saints. Norman Reedus, who plays badass Daryl on the AMC show, happens to channel a similar disposition here.
The action in Boondock Saints was interesting and different, the characters were interesting and different, and the plot was… well it was different. Two Irish catholic meat packers, the Macmanus brothers, and a grunt in the Italian mob feel they have been called upon by God to eliminate the wicked men who freely walk the streets of Boston. The FBI agent tasked with finding them is Willem Dafoe, who proceeds to go crazy. Along the way they encounter so much blind luck and impossible circumstance that it would make even the most staunch atheist believe they really were.
I thought it was a great movie, very memorable, very entertaining. But when it was over, I shelved it and moved on, occasionally recalling some funny moments to share with friends who have also seen it. It’s an interesting gimmick in the movie that you are introduced to the action scenes after the fact, watching the police trying to go through everything that happened so as to retrace the steps of the Macmanus brothers, narrating the events in the present as they unfold in the past. But for some other people this movie is like the second coming of Jesus. And I want to figure out why.
This movie has a few things to say, but doesn’t have a whole lot below the surface. What you see is what you get, as is the case with most action movies. That’s alright, but in the scheme of things there has to be something below the surface that hooks people. Otherwise, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be the most memorable movie of 2009. Though, there is something below the surface that a lot of people tend to miss because it’s generally something that readily apparent on the surface: the dialogue. And herein is why Willem Dafoe is playing the FBI agent tracking the Macmanus brothers.
Willem Dafoe actually serves the purpose of telling the audience how they should be reacting to everything in the movie. By narrating every action scene, the different emotions he expresses while explaining the evidence left behind at the crime scenes are impressed upon the viewer. Projecting at its finest. Take the opening scene of the film where a priest is telling the story of “Kitty Genovese,” a woman living in Brooklyn who was murdered in front of an apartment complex. The residents merely watched or ignored her as she called for help. The priest’s tone then shifts into anger and frustration at the retelling of her story, as if to express to his congregation just how wrong standing idly by can be. With that charisma, he gives the audience a reason to be angry. Then the Macmanus brothers walk in, kneel at the cross and leave like badasses. But the point of this is that Dafoe’s charisma is what sets the tone for the scene more than the action. Since his madness eventually overtakes him in a big way, it allows the scenes to get bigger and bigger, while the action in itself remains fairly stagnant. The actions scenes for the most part, aside from setting, don’t change.
I liked this movie, and that is something that should be stressed having just explained how it manipulates your emotions. It isn’t something bad to know, that the way someone speaks can have a much greater effect on you than what is actually being said or even witnessed, especially during a presidential race (Oooohh, political… edgy!). But the reason this isn’t a bad thing is because this is a movie that operates on the surface. It isn’t trying to convince you that we need more gun control or fewer abortions and is using the charisma of a gifted character actor to convince you of this. It’s just trying to get you to like an action scene a little bit more than you might have otherwise. And the third act, which plays without narration, is definitely one of the most memorable I’ve seen. The film works. The sequel was “meh.”