Cult audiences have been responsible for the resurrection of movies ranging from Vertigo to The Big Lebowski, but even they get it wrong sometimes. If movies are a religion, the fervent following of Troy Duffy’s po-faced vigilante thriller The Boondock Saints is akin to Scientology, an opaque sect whose beliefs are utterly unintelligible to outsiders. Exactly what endears Duffy’s sub-Scorsesean tale of two Irish Catholic brothers (Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery) whose escape from death at the hands of Russian thugs convinces them they’ve been ordained as God’s personal assassins is a mystery not even Willem Dafoe’s mincing FBI agent can solve. Explicable or not, the Boondock cult is real enough to have convinced someone that Duffy, whose egomania and personal unpleasantness is chronicled in the documentary Overnight, was worth a second shot.
All Saints Day picks up years after the original, with the brothers and their equally homicidal da (Connolly) hiding out in the green hills of Ireland, represented by an isolated cottage that would have struck the makers of The Quiet Man as a tad on the nose. When a priest is murdered back in Boston using their customary M.O.—two guns, pennies on the eyes—they hop a freighter back to the States, picking up Clifton Collins Jr.’s bug-eyed Mexican sidekick on the way.
Duffy dutifully references the original, staging an endless succession of firefights—or rather their consequences, since his idea of a gun battle is watching a gaggle of undifferentiated henchmen flail their arms and spurt stage blood in slow motion. There are a few change-ups, but nothing to rile the fans: Dafoe’s lisping caricature is replaced by Julie Benz’s twangy G-man, who use earplugs rather than a Discman to aid her quasi-psychic trances.
While Duffy hasn’t made a movie in 10 years, some sign of personal growth should be expected, but he seems to have spent the intervening decade poring over his DVD collection rather than generating fresh ideas. Perhaps it’s his obvious lifts from Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, and the like that attract his fans, who get to feel savvy without being challenged. But his fondness for racial stereotypes—Italian mob boss Judd Nelson clubs an underling with a large cured sausage—and his inept command of actors, not to mention his utterly juvenile morality and his comically clumsy use of religious iconography, should keep all but the diehards away.