Cult films are a dangerous thing. Sometimes great, sometimes not, they create a fervor and devotion usually saved for fringe religious groups and third party candidates. And the films make their way into the canon of filmic classics, whether or not they deserve to be there.
There is only one thing more dangerous than a cult film. A cult sequel.
I was once an acolyte who worshiped at the altar of "The Boondock Saints," the 1999 comedic thriller about two Irish brothers in Boston who decide to become vigilantes. I saw the film when I was 16, right before I was about to move to Boston. Perhaps it was the gritty Southie cache that resonated with me, or the idea of two good-looking Irish boys saving Boston from danger, but I was in love. I’d lost touch with the movie until last week, when I saw the sequel.
Starring: Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Connolly
Seen at: Loews Boston Common
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen it in a couple years. It was the exact same movie.
The plot’s a bit different: our anti-heroes Connor and Murphy (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, respectively) are on the lam in Ireland by their father (Billy Connolly) after killing numerous mobsters in Boston. After a mysterious villain starts mimicking the Saints reverent killing style, they return to Beantown to take up their savage quest. They’re pursued by another FBI agent, this time a woman- Julie Benz, who does a truly spectacular job stepping into Willem Dafoe’s airy shoes, even with half of her scenes being slow camera shots up her gamine profile. We also get a protracted back story about the boys’ father, a righteous murderer in his own right.
But the cult sequel is a very big problem because it’s made for the fans, and the fans alone. Outsiders are not just ignored, they are actively discouraged. This would not be so terrible, if not for the fact that Troy Duffy, the mastermind behind the “Saints,” decided that the only way to appease his fans would be to simply make the movie again. So we have the two boys who plot to kill bad guys based around action flicks they’ve seen. We have the hilarious, vaguely ethnic sidekick (the last one got offed in the first film). We have the religious imagery, the filthy dialogue, the stylized shoot-outs and a wily Southern FBI agent with a feminine drawl. There’s even a reference to rope- one of the first film’s best gags.
All-in-all, it’s less a movie and more of an inside joke. And as we all know, boys and girls, inside jokes are only funny to the ones who know what you’re talking about. For those who are fans of the first film, this will be a welcome diversion. Duffy is a truly wonderful screenwriter, and his dialogue clips along at a good pace. Reedus and Flanery are excellent; it’s as if they’d just stepped off the set of the first film last week. And I really did enjoy watching Benz take a luscious bite out of the scenery around her. There are surprises too- and if I spoiled any of them I’m sure I would have gold coins on my eyes by the end of the week, so let’s move on.
But if you don’t know what I mean when I talk about gold coins, or rope or that wicked funny scene with the cat, then chances are “Saints II” will only leave you slightly dizzy, and more than slightly confused. As for me, a die-hard fan of yore, I suddenly realized that somewhere between 16 years old and today, this movie had lost its cult status in my heart. It was still a good movie, sure. So is the sequel. But in terms of my devotion, I guess I’ve been deprogrammed.