After a 10-year wait that felt like an eternity, the moment that Irish Americans have been waiting for has finally arrived: the Boondock Saints are back with a bang.
“Boondock Saints II” has finally made it to the big screen, and the film’s legions of fans have been showing up in their thousands to the sequel’s premiers.
Connor and Murphy MacManus, played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, have put a hold on their vigilante lifestyles and have been hiding out on a sheep farm in Ireland with their father, Noah ‘Il Duce’ MacManus, played by famous Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly.
But when news is delivered that the Saints have been framed for the murder of a Boston priest, the brothers drop their potatoes, grab their guns, replace their Aran sweaters with pea coats, and head back to the U.S. to take care of business in the name of Catholic truth and justice.
A bit kitschy? Perhaps.
But Irish-American director Troy Duffy is in the business of giving the thousands of diehard “Boondock” fans what they want, which is precisely what “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” accomplishes.
“We wanted to do an honest job here,” Duffy told IrishCentral.com in an interview on Tuesday. “This fan base means a sh*tload to us. They made this film successful, and we were basically abandoned by Hollywood. So we did it for them.”
The abandonment Duffy refers to is movie execs’ decision to release the original “Boondock Saints” to just five cinemas in 2000, and Duffy says he and the actors hardly saw a dime of profit from DVD sales.
Legal problems are also what delayed the sequel from being made until 10 years after the original, according to the director.
But the Irish are not ones to back down from a fight, and thanks to the millions of fans who bought the DVD and catapulted the film to cult classic status, we now have “Boondock Saints II.”
“You made this. The fans made this,” Billy Connolly told the excited crowd at the movie’s New York premiere on October 20.
Though 1999’s “The Boondock Saints” didn’t receive glowing reviews from critics, Americans were obsessed with it, and it became an instant cult hit.
Today, there are “Boondock Saints”-themed drinking competitions, and thousands of fans, both men and women, have “Boondock” tattoos. There is also a pretty good chance that a copy of “Boondock Saints Deluxe Collector’s Edition” is in the room of almost every American college student.
So how much of “The Boondock Saints’” wild success had to do with the film being “Irish”?
“I think [the film’s success] has a lot to do with the Irish background,” star Norman Reedus told IrishCentral. “I think, you know, there’s a lot of drinking, a lot of camaraderie, guys sticking up for guys. I think the alcohol and the fun guy thing is very much Irish.”
“It couldn’t work if they weren’t Irish,” co-star Sean Patrick Flanery added. “I mean that’s at the core.”
The Irishness the “Boondock” films portray is admittedly a stereotypical breed, but Duffy says these stereotypes – the drinking, the fighting, the loyalty, the fierce friendships – is what he knows as an Irish American.
“For me it’s like write what you know” Duffy said. “If it was a bunch of Jewish guys doing this my last name would be Duffinstein.
“But it’s Irish guys. That’s what I know – I wrote what I know. It definitely helps that there’s a stereotypical image of Irish people and I think for the most part a lot of that sh*t’s true.
“There’s just very little bullsh*t with us, and I hate pretending I like people when I don’t, so I don’t really subscribe to that… and I think that comes from the heritage. And we tend to drink.”
Duffy, Reedus and Flanery all say that it’s rare, but every now and then an Irish person will express their displeasure with being portrayed as rowdy, hard drinking vigilantes, but the “Boondock” crew isn’t making any apologies about it.
“It’s not like we’re a**holes killing innocent people,” Reedus said.
“And if you can’t take a joke go f*ck yourself,” Duffy added.
Though “Boondock II” deals with some intense subject matter – the McManus brothers continuing their holy mission to rid Boston of evil by killing off the criminals – jokes abound, and the Saints certainly know how to have a good time while on their killing spree.
Much of the film’s comic relief comes from the fact that the brothers are not perfect, not professional killers. However, despite their messing around, they somehow get their mission accomplished every time.
“In Boondock 1 I made you like those characters, like the boys, for the first 15 minutes, because they’re guys you’d wanna have a drink with, guys you’d wanna have on your back, on your side of the bar fight,” Duffy said.
“That way when they went to do their controversial thing, you were kind of torn. You had to make your own decision.
“Some people believe they’re chosen by God, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, Hallelujah!
“Other people are just like ‘these are the two of the luckiest Irish a**holes in the world.’ They just barely f*cking get out by the skin of their teeth every time.”
What’s definitely not a joke is the motive behind the Saints’ violent actions. They unapologetically kill, and they kill in the name of God, reciting their Irish Catholic family prayer every time before executing a criminal.
“The religious side of that takes it that one level deeper for everybody who watches it,” Duffy said.