Gaelicspirit (gaelicspirit) wrote,

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The Saints are coming... review of Boondock Saints II

WARNING: Here there be spoilers for Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here…

Just like its predecessor, All Saints Day was campy and violent and played up Troy Duffy’s signature filmmaking gimmicks to the hilt culminating in a movie that was made of win. This isn’t a movie you go to for plot—though there was one; and a bit more of a plot here than in the first, I dare say. This isn’t a movie you go to for a reminder of the rewards living a clean life with fine moral character will bring to you.

This is a movie you go to if you want to see bad guys get killed bloody and good (pretty) guys laugh about their plight while simultaneously pulling the trigger, a rosary in their hands to justify the slaying. It’s simply entertainment, and doesn’t claim to be anything more. Which is what makes it so great.

Ten years aged the McManus brothers—though in the movie, it had only been eight years since they left Boston for Ireland. Norman Reedus (Murphy) looked a bit rough around the edges, but Sean Patrick Flannery (Connor) appeared to have had a face lift—or something—that changed his eyes a bit too much. I will admit that it took me a few minutes to get used to it, but once the movie hit its rhythm, it didn’t matter what the actors had or hadn’t done. I was once again watching Connor and Murphy and loving every minute of it.

Duffy went with a basic if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it template with this second outing. The moments that worked well in the first movie were relived in one way or another in All Saints Day, but somehow he managed to make it more of an homage than merely a repeat offender. There was a good deal of slow-motion shooting and reenactment, a rope crack, a revisioning of Agent Smecker’s, “It was a FIREFIGHT!” scene, only this time, “It was an old-fashioned SHOOT ‘EM UP!”

My only complaint—and this is coming from the place my fanfiction writer heart resides—is that we didn’t get as much of the brotherly, hurt/comfort connection this time around. In the original Saints, Connor tore his wrists bloody and pulled a toilet from the floor in his efforts to get to Murphy in time to save his life. The scene with Murphy then shouldering his unconscious brother will not soon leave my mind. That, and the cauterizing bullet wounds with an iron after they first met Il Duce (aka, Papa McManus)… well, you get my meaning.

The first movie was like a string of hit-and-run accidents tied together by the bond of these two brothers. Their mission was self-created and they took it deadly serious. Their devastation at losing Rocco was mirrored by their stunned wonder at finding their father again—after nearly killing him. It’s no wonder it created more of a cult following than box-office success. It’s not a story that speaks to the masses, even if many of us secretly would want to take up the mantle of a vigilante and parcel out some justice of our own once in awhile. As Rocco states at the beginning of All Saints Day—yeah, I’ll explain that in a moment—most of us are ‘thinkers’ not ‘doers.’ So watching these Irish boys take out a rapist, a murder, a mob boss fulfills some secret desire for retribution that we wouldn’t share with the outside world.

Not to mention that they are So. Very. Pretty.

This movie, however, offered more of a 'why' than the first bothered with and worked in moments with other players. What I assume was a memory of Rocco inserted to segue us over the ten-year gap opened the movie, speaking with eloquence he’d never really had in life about the boys (as everyone called them) and the fact that we could live as we were because they did what they did.

A priest is killed, and the body positioned with his hands crossed over his chest, two pennies on his eyes. Signature of the Saints. This begins a two-pronged story that is told in alternating scene overlays and weaving together until they’re melded into one. It’s one of my favorite types of storytelling. It forces the reader/viewer to pay attention, remember things, try to jump ahead and guess the end while they’re still immersed in the beauty of the unfolding story.

Story 1: The brothers.

They’ve been living in Ireland for eight years, herding sheep (true shepherds, yeah?) and apparently growing hair. The depiction of Ireland had me laughing a bit. They apparently lived in a very, very remote section of the country where they only had rough-hewn wooden tables and heating was made possible only by fireplaces. So remote, in fact, that at one point a moth flitted around Papa McManus’ Aran sweater right by his face and he paid no attention to it. Live and let live, I suppose.

Though they’ve been searching for peace after leaving Boston eight years ago, they’re getting restless, apparently. This is indicated by Murphy pushing up the sleeve of his heavy sweater to solemnly regard his Celtic cross tattoo. A local priest shows up and tells them about the murder of the priest back in Boston and suddenly the boys are revved up. There’s a slightly hilarious, slightly drool-worthy scene of them ‘gearing up’ in the barn. Why the barn? It’s remote Ireland, ya’ll!

They dig out a chest of guns, cut their hideously long hair and beards, and shower off all the shepherd dirt. And yes, we get the long-shot of the showering with nekkid boys and their nicely toned backsides. I think the point, though, was to show us their new tats—Connor’s depicted the crucifixion with Jesus’ head and crown of thorns and Murphy’s was the Lord’s feet, crossed with the nail through both. Add some black turtlenecks and the dark pea coats, and the Saints were back.

Just as the priest killer wanted them to, they headed back to America via a steamer where they cross paths with Romeo, a ‘Mexican’ played by Clifton Collins, Jr., whom I’m quite certain isn’t Mexican, but hey, that’s why it’s called acting, right? They witness Romeo win a fight with a man about three times his size simply by bobbing and weaving until he was able to put a sleeper-hold on the guy and after a few more conversations, he’s in the mix.

Murphy, ever the level-headed, albeit more emotional of the twins, wonders for a moment (while touching up the tat on his brother’s back) if they should have disguised themselves before going ashore. Perhaps… lighten their hair? Connor ribs him back with a, “You saying you want to go blonde? Stay gold, Ponyboy! Stay gold!” This results in the standard McManus brothers puppy-like scuffle that is all arms and legs and bodies tangled too lightly to get a good punch in. Had me grinning.

Murphy is reticent to bring Romeo into the fray remembering, perhaps, their late friend Rocco. While both had been affected when Rocco was killed, it was Murphy’s heartbroken cry of “No, Roc!” that got to me more than Connor’s enraged curses at his murderer. But, Romeo is able to be their stateside “agent” and so it’s on.

There’s an uncle involved who knows a guy who knows a guy and we find out that Romeo is a bit of a crier which is simply fodder for the boys. One humorous scene has Romeo driving away from the gun supplier with his Mexican pistols, Connor in the back seat, and Murphy in the passenger seat. Murphy is obviously uncomfortable with Romeo’s choked display of emotion, hesitantly asking if anyone wants to go get something to eat.

“Quiet! Everyone!” Connor interrupts loudly from the back. “Romeo’s cryin’!”


Meanwhile, Boston has a new FBI Agent in town. It seems the flamboyantly weird Agent Smecker died, the three cops that had been helping him help the boys get rid of the bad guys were still around, though, and when the priest was killed, the FBI sent very special Agent Eunice Bloom played by the ever-versatile Julie Benz. Southern, wicked smart, and unafraid to drop kick some choicely phrased F-bombs, Agent Bloom had her own quirks when investigating a crime scene. Where Smecker listened to opera on his walkman (oh, how times have changed), Bloom apparently needed silence.

The three cops took some getting used to again—I only really recognized one from the other movie: David “Greenbean” Greenly. And their interaction felt a bit forced at first. But I soon began to roll with it and their panic at Agent Bloom finding out that they had aided the Saints back in the day was somewhat humorous.

The boys reconnect with Doc McGintey, with Murphy introducing Romeo as “their Mexican,” and Doc puts them up in a “hide-away” where we get a great montage with the boys drinking, playing, messing with Doc’s Tourette’s Syndrome, and generally enjoying being back. Their plan is to find the man who ordered the hit on the priest and take him—and all his associates—out. Simple as that. They find out that the man they’re after is Yakavetta’s (the man they killed in the courtroom along with Il Duce at the end of the first movie) son, Concezio, played by Judd Nelson.

They start with a raid on a heroin… making… place. At least, Connor says it’s heroin. When Murphy challenges him, Connor simply replies, “I know things!” Connor has a plan, and it’s a grand plan. Problem is… nothing with these two ever goes as planned. And while Murphy protests the validity of the plan, he’ll die backing his brother and he’s locked and loaded, ready to roll when Connor kick-starts the plan. There is a hilarious moment where Romeo attempts to drive a fork-lift with the boys hidden inside a box that had contained the shipment of heroin.

It ends with the bad guys dead and the rosary read over them, but it’s a cluster of an executed plan. Of course when we see it, it’s as Agent Bloom is replaying what happened, show us how extremely in-tuned she is with the boys. Somehow, the brothers find out about a gathering of Yakavetta’s “men on the streets” – it has something to do with a guy named “Gorgeous George” (who is not at all good looking), but I forget how it all comes together.

There is a rather funny encounter between George and another of Yakavetta’s thugs organizing this gathering where they shouted rapid-fired misinterpretations and insults at each other eventually collapsing in laughter because their boss had locked himself in a panic room like Jodie Foster. It was the kind of funny that I should have been ashamed of myself for laughing at. That kind of funny.

The brothers force George to make the location of the meeting of these thugs be Romeo’s uncle’s place and they’re laying in wait, with a thoroughly humiliated George, to take out all of the bad guys, which they do rather spectacularly. When it's over, and every bad guy except George is dead, Connor puts a bullet in a revolver and steps threateningly up to the duck-taped George saying that God would have to decide if George had seen the error of his ways and deserved to be set free.

“You better be right wit’ yer Jaysus!” Connor yells, then pulls the trigger. Empty chamber. George backs away trembling and Murphy laughs, “That was one of the finest examples of spiritual guidance I’ve ever had the good fortune to witness.”

Ah, I love Murphy.

Unfortunately, the jovial mood midst the dead bodies is quickly ended when the trio is caught in a cross-fire between Agent Bloom and the Little Shooter that took out the priest. The boys hit the deck—Connor physically knocking Romeo away—and Agent Bloom tags the Little Shooter with a bullet. The boys rise, pointing their weapons at Bloom, who then reveals her true agenda: she’s on their side.

She was appointed by Smecker to take on the mantle of helping the brother’s out. She has put together that the Little Shooter wasn’t hired by Yakavetta, but by someone bigger, more powerful, as he was slipped through the system only a couple of months after 9/11, when the country was on ultra-high terrorist alert. After a bit, she reveals to the trio of cops working the case with her that she knew all along about their involvement with the brothers and the Saints once again team up with the cops.

This is where Story 2 comes into play.

Story 2: Il Duce and The Roman.

Il Duce (played by an impressively un-aged Billy Connolly) has a past he’s never shared with his sons. We see this portrayed in a series of flashbacks as Il Duce, whose name is actually Noah, by the way, stays behind in Ireland and ponders what it is his boys are doing. Turns out that young Noah worked in a furniture shop with his father and had a good way with making furniture. He witnesses his father’s murder and it breaks something inside of him—like scary broken.

Noah has a friend—and Italian friend, but I can’t remember his actual name—who has a leg brace. Noah finds that he is compelled to kill the men that killed his father, but once they’re all gone, he has a taste for it and can’t stop. Rather than run screaming into the night, the Italian friend works with Noah to hone his craft, helps him build that impressive multi-holstered vest, plans the hits and lets Noah execute them, so to speak.

And then one day in 1975, he sets Noah up, and Noah ends up doing 25 years in prison. The only reason Noah doesn’t roll on him is that his Italian friend learned of the birth of his sons and uses that to keep Il Duce quiet. Until now.

And this is where Story 1 and Story 2 intersect.

Turns out, the Italian friend grew up to be known as either “The Old Man” or “The Roman.” He held Yakavetta’s puppet strings. He hired the Little Shooter (and I mean this literally… the man is like 5’ 3” and they make a big deal about how small he is) to kill the priest specifically to bring the boys stateside, knowing their father would eventually follow. He wanted the boys to do exactly what they were doing—eliminate Yakavetta’s ‘army’ so that he could take his place of power once more. You see, he betrayed Noah once he’d killed enough people to get The Roman on the radar of the right bad guys, but without Noah, the bad guys had no real use for The Roman.

It made more sense when I watched it. Must’ve been the accents.

Story 1 comes to an end the only way it can: bloody. The team of Saints and Cops plan a hit on Yakavetta’s high-rise panic room. Well, actually, Connor comes up with the plan from “The Eiger Sanction,” a Clint Eastwood movie. With help from their police friends, the boys gain access to the high-rise, hiding in a laundry basket. They split up at one point and the brothers are in the elevator, guns in hand.

“You ready for this, dear brother?” asks Connor.

“Let’s do some gratuitous violence,” Murphy replies.

Nice. *grin* One of the things I loved from the first movie that were replayed here was a lot of the "twinspeak"—as if these two spend so much time together they are in each other’s heads. It’s a character device I like in other things as well. *ahem*

As usual, we see what happens in Yakavetta’s suite through the eyes of Agent Bloom—as if she’s there. In her mind, as she replays what happened, she’s dressed in some Sexy Gunslinger outfit and walks through the whole process. The boys and two of the cops are on a window-washer’s ledge, rope tied to their waist. Insert “effing rope” joke here. Which… they did.

Connor: “Creative! It's a creative plan!”

Murphy: “It's ridiculous! Probably based on some stupid shit ya saw in a movie! And here I am AGAIN all tyin' myself up with rope! What is the deal with you and rope? Honestly!”

Connor: “It happens ta be a useful thing!”

The window-washer ledge gets stuck and they’re forced to jump—literally JUMP—from the ledge to get down into the suite in time, or Romeo would bust in on his own and be killed.

Looking like avenging angels, they swing down from the ledge on the ropes, simultaneously shooting out the window and cutting the ropes so that when they land in the apartment, the second weapon comes out and bullets are flying (in slow motion, of course) everywhere. They take out everyone but Yakavetta’s little servant boy, who hides in the panic room. They execute Yakavetta in the same manner in which they killed his father. And then they leave.

This was Bloom’s, “It was a FIREFIGHT!” scene, only she had a shoot-em-up.

There’s a side-bar scene where Paul Johannsson shows up as another FBI Agent that is replacing Bloom since she’s obviously gone rogue, but… meh. They could have had her taken off the case and gone rogue without the other agent showing up. I’ve never liked that guy.

Anyway, the boys are at McGinty’s having a laugh and a few beers when Detective Greenly shows up to say congrats and yay! we did it! Out of the blue, the Little Shooter shows up and blows him away. Greenly's death is unexpected and sad, but not to the emotional degree Rocco’s was. Just enough to cut the boys deep and get them feeling again. They scramble for weapons, caught with little ammunition. When they re-emerge, the Little Shooter has Doc hostage and tells him to choose—pick which brother he loves more. Whoops—he thinks Doc is Il Duce.

Just as it looks like one of the brothers is going to get shot (and would that have been that bad?), the real Il Duce shows up, shoots the gun out of the Little Shooter’s hand and they play a weird game of Russian Roulette. Irish Roulette, maybe? Il Duce puts one bullet in one gun and another in another gun and then they point the guns at each other’s heads. Little Shooter just wants Il Duce dead. Il Duce, wants to know where The Roman is.

Connor and Murphy are going ballistic. They both have guns pointed at the Little Shooter and each time his gun clicks on an empty round and their father is spared the brothers ricochet between relief and rage. Finally, Il Duce says, quite calmly, “Boys, please. Daddy’s working.” Connor looks like he could basically care less, spitting at the Little Shooter, “When this is over, you’re dead.” Murphy eases him back and away, keeping a cool head as ever.

As the tense confrontation continues, the boys fall to their knees, praying until finally Il Duce wins and the Little Shooter meets his maker. Here endeth Story 1.

The boys dream. Shared dreams are another favorite character devise of mine. This is a kick-ass dream, though. They’re sitting at the bar at McGinty’s. Rocco is there, pouring them a shot. A cat runs across the bar in homage, I believe, to the poor cat that met a bloody, but horribly hilarious end in the first movie. Rocco’s whole purpose in this dream is to grab the boys up by their lapels and shake some spit and vinegar back into them after they lost Greenly and learned the truth about their father’s past.

He starts with one of those, yeah, I know I died, and that sucked, but I wouldn’t have changed one minute of what I was able to do with you guys for the world, and then segues into what they just accomplished by taking out Yakavetta and rounds out with a rousing, “Real men hide their feelings because it’s none of your fucking business!”

The brother's wake together, seemingly ready to take on Story 2.

Former Agent Bloom gives them the location they need for The Roman and says she’s going to Costa Rica. She asked Il Duce to “kill this man.” Here’s where it gets a little foggy for me on how it all goes down. The Roman, played by Peter Fonda, gets himself a lot more man-power, and they surround the greenhouse he’s hidden himself in. Il Duce gets there first and has himself a little sit-down with his old friend.

The boys show up with Romeo in tow and… all hell breaks loose. Everybody’s shooting, bad guys are falling, Murphy gets hit—twice—but keeps going. Connor gets hit and it spins him and he sees his brother going down, calling out, “MURPH!” in that panicked way that he does that just curls my toes. Their father gets hit—bad—and Murphy crawls to him, shooting bad guys the whole time. There were a helluva lot of bad guys.

Somewhere in there Romeo goes down, but the boys are focused on their Da. Connor makes it over to them and they haul him up, half-carrying him over to The Roman. He simply says that he’ll see him in a minute and then ‘BAM!’ After he shoots The Roman, he goes limp and the boys can’t hold him. They lean over him, crying as he dies, but yet… it was kind of expected. I wasn’t really all that sad for them. I should have been—he was their Da and they’d only had 8 years with him. But their emotion was so much more palpable when Rocco was killed—partly, I suspect, because at that point they’d been beat to hell and were on the edge of losing—than when Il Duce died…

They make it outside, blood flowing from their wounds, and are literally surrounded by hordes and hordes of cops. Could very easily have been a Butch and Sundance ending with a, “For a minute there I thought we were in trouble,” comment. But, they drop their weapons—Connor first, then Murphy. Their mission was complete. Their Da was dead. And they had nothing left.

In an interesting twist, though, Former Agent Bloom runs into Supposed-To-Be-Dead Agent Smecker as she’s trying to get out of the country and hide in some monastery somewhere. Apparently, he’s working with the “biggest corporation in the world”—cut to shot of priest with smug smile—and he wants Blooms help to get the boys out of prison and back on the streets doing what they do best. Bloom is worried; the boys are in Hoag and that’s “not just a prison.”

Cut to boys in prison hospital wing, wounds wrapped, but spots of blood showing, sitting up slowly and facing each other on their bunks. With a nod of permission from the guard, they haul themselves to the window and peer out at the groups of prisoners standing in the yard below, looking up at them. Outside the prison walls, a mob of people stands with signs of protest to “Free the Saints.” Smecker’s voice over says that he thinks the boys will be just fine as we see Connor shake a shame on you finger at the prisoners while Murphy makes a gun out of his fingers and his lips purse in a “pow” sound.

Bring on BDS III!! Only… let’s not wait 10 years, shall we? The boys will be turning walkers into shotguns at that rate.

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