Cult classics are often defined by their flaws as much as their merits. Boondock Saints, the 1999 film that achieved cult status on DVD and has now spawned a sequel, had plenty of flaws.
It was a ridiculously over-the-top action film about Irish American twins who set out with guns and boozy bravado to rid Boston of criminals and mobsters.
Like its sequel, it's a terrible movie. But Boondock Saints does have the hallmarks of a film made by an actual person - an increasingly rare sight in Hollywood.
That person is writer-director Troy Duffy, a former Los Angeles bartender who had no experience in movies when his screenplay for Boondock Saints became a sensation in the late '90s. A bidding war ensued and Harvey Weinstein, then of Miramax, took in Duffy as his next Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. The two tangled, though, and Weinstein quickly dumped Boondock Saints. It was released only in a few theaters, making $30,000.
But Duffy was tenacious. Ten years later, he reunited his cast for The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. It's to receive a far better release, appearing on about 70 screens.
The film opens with the MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) on a hillside in Ireland, herding sheep. Along with Poppa M (Billy Connolly), they are laying low; the last time they were seen in public (at the end of the first film), they executed a mob boss in the middle of a courtroom.
The brothers are pulled back to Boston, hell-bent on avenging the murder of a local priest. Catholicism runs deep in Boondock Saints: The MacManus brothers boast huge tattoos of Jesus on their backs, chant spooky-sounding scripture, and pray over the bodies of their victims.
Like its predecessor, All Saints Day laments a society full of red tape, dominated by the "self-help, 12-step generation."
Violence is necessary to clean our cities, the films say. There's a vaguely racist subtext, with derogatory phrases used for blacks in the first installment and for Hispanics in the second.
Instead of offering a picture of urban decay and crime, Boondock Saints gives us only cardboard-cutout mobsters, highly orchestrated gun fights, and assassinations.
Cloaking vigilante justice (not to mention casual racism and homophobia) in religion eventually turns Boondock Saints from merely a bad movie to a distasteful one.