Judge Gordon Sullivan really wants someone to make Alien vs. Godfather.
The Saints are back!
Let's face it: to live up to fan expectations, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day would have needed the combined magic of The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather: Part II, and Aliens all rolled into one. Repeat viewings and a deliciously open ending made The Boondock Saints ripe for a sequel and fans have waited ten years for one to materialize. Their hopes were generally dashed by revelations of Troy Duffy's massive ego and generally juvenile shenanigans during and after the making of the first film, but against all odds, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (Blu-ray) has arrived. No, it's not going to win the franchise any fans; no, it doesn't add anything particularly special to the formula of the first one; and no, it's not going to please everybody—but (and it's a huge but), those willing to check their expectations and give All Saints Day a fair shake will find a loud, boisterous action flick that sticks closely to the formula of the first film with machismo to burn.
Facts of the Case
The McManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus, returning from the first film) have given up their vigilante lifestyle and are making their way as sheep farmers in the Irish countryside with their Da (the similarly returning Billy Connelly). When someone kills one of Boston's Catholic priests and leaves pennies on the dead man's eyes, the brothers are lured out of hiding to avenge the priest and clear their name. Along for the ride is Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr., Sunshine Cleaning), their Mexican sidekick/admirer, and the group are going to find out that this killing is connected to the new head of the Yakavetta family (Judd Nelson, The Breakfast Club) as well as the elder McManus' past. On the boy's trail are the three police officers from the first film, and they are joined by FBI special agent Eunice (Julie Benz, Dexter), Agent Smecker's replacement.
Read most sympathetically, All Saints Day is a love letter to the fans, an unabashed retread of all the things that made people love the first film. There's the gratuitous, techno-scored violence, the self-righteous vigilante attitudes, and the ridiculous, quotable dialogue. In this case the brothers are lured into violence on purpose by the Yakavetta family, but they still respond by killing bad guys, the FBI still ends up involved, and it all still involves scores of flashbacks and a final gun battle.
This is checklist filmmaking at its finest. After a decade of hearing from fans, Troy Duffy had a solid idea of what worked about the first Boondock Saints, and apparently very little inclination to change what many people thought didn't work. Perhaps the only concession he's made to criticism of the first film is to make All Saints Day slightly more linear. There are still some flashback moments, but they're not presented in the same integral manner as those of the first. Because of this, those who've seen the first film will probably guess what's going to happen with ninety percent accuracy at any moment of the film, which is both a blessing and a curse for such a fan-centric flick.
Troy Duffy may be the auteur behind the Boondocks franchise, but film's real strength is the cast. They're all mugging for the camera like someone has a gun to their head, but for a film like this it works more often than not. I've come to love Clifton Collins Jr., and his role here as Romeo is pure cheesy fun, while Julie Benz sinks her teeth into the most bizarre southern accent I've heard in ages. Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery spend much of the film in either manly poses or looking confused. I'm not surprised that the best, most natural performance in the film is Billy Connolly's, but I am surprised that the second best is Judd Nelson's (and not Peter Fonda's as I might have suspected).
In my Blu-ray review of The Boondock Saints, I said, "The court will look more kindly on this disc if the sequel's eventual release is a more fully loaded special edition." I can now say that between the two film's Blu-ray releases, the Boondock Saints fan can find pretty much everything he or she would want to know about the film. This disc starts with a pretty solid audiovisual presentation. Detail and color rendition are spectacular throughout, and all of the film's darker scenes demonstrate and admirable amount of clarity, while the surround mix matches the action beat for beat offering plenty of low end and surround effects.
The extras, though, are what fans are going to crave. We get an gang commentary with Duffy, Connolly, Reedus, and Flannery that extends the film's joke-y tone. The other track is mostly a solo appearance from Duffy, who discusses the film's production until he is joined by a special guest (I don't want to spoil it since it could potentially spoil one of the film's better surprises). The pair then discuss acting and film more generally. There are also some deleted scenes, a typical behind-the-scenes featurette, and a conversation between Connolly and Duffy. All of these are also available on the DVD edition, but exclusive to the Blu-ray are featurettes on the weapons in the film, cast "confessions," and a peek at the cast's involvement with Comic Con.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day is essentially a violent, macho fantasy, and as such is likely going to pass a significant percent of the population by. It's also a bit juvenile, and obsessed with homosexual threats of violence to people's posteriors. Honestly, there's nothing new or redeeming about the film, and the fact that it doesn't offer fans more than a retread of the first flick means that many people, even fans of the first film, will be unlikely to look kindly on this release.
I went in expecting a big, dumb sequel to a cult hit and got exactly what I expected: lots of explosions, over-the-top characters, and a few one-liners. With similarly low expectations, other fans of the McManus brothers' previous outing will likely want to at least rent this release, if only for the extras. Those who think that the film needs to be the literal second coming of the McManuses, or those who saw nothing redeeming in the first film should probably avoid this disc despite the strong presentation and interesting extras.
Duffy and company are guilty of treading water in this sequel, but that's enough to make a decent film in this genre, so the court will have to let them go.
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