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The ‘Boondock Saints’ Sequel News Means There’s One Movie You Have to Watch Immediately. (No, It's Not ‘Boondock Saints’)

Cinematic / Alamy Stock Photo

This week, Thunder Road Pictures, the studio behind John Wick, announced plans to produce a “reimagining” of The Boondock Saints (initially reported, incorrectly, as a greenlight for Boondock Saints 3). The move comes a full 15 years after the release of Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day; this time around, though, Saints writer-director Troy Duffy will only be producing. For his part, Duffy plans to “write a series of books” and continue the Saints’ story that way, notes the original scoop on Deadline.

Why a 20-some-year-old action franchise getting a remake was big enough news to get picked up by most of the movie news sites still in existence is a little more complicated to explain.

Just hearing the words “Boondock Saints” is enough to give a certain subset of film-literate millennials PTSD; the possibility of a whole new generation of college stoners discovering pseudo-artistic, pseudo-Irish revenge films is somehow both quaint and terrifying. Trying to understand The Boondock Saints phenomenon—and it truly was a phenomenon—is like peeling an onion of late-‘90s and early-aughts trends and countertrends.

You’d think the logical place to begin would be the original Boondock Saints. You’d be wrong. That film—originally released in five theaters in 2000 before its cult success on DVD earned it a second theatrical run in 2006—isn’t particularly noteworthy. It’s one of those stylized, Pulp Fiction-y indie-actioners that cluttered video stores in the late ‘90s in the same way early-aughts radio was still littered with post-grunge Nirvana and Pearl Jam imitators. Boondock Saints is sort of a cinematic Three Doors Down or Staind.

Yet the story of how that not-particularly-noteworthy film came to be (or didn’t come to be, depending on your perspective) is a fascinating one, immortalized in the only true masterpiece of the whole Boondock Saints universe: an unforgettable 2003 documentary called Overnight.

Imagine if a documentarian had been a fly on the wall while Tommy Wiseau was conceiving The Room, and that this documentarian was also an embittered former friend of Wiseau’s, and that the documentary itself was also its own kind of The Room, and you have Overnight. A cult classic almost in spite of itself, it’s an incredible time capsule of the post-Pulp indie feeding frenzy in Hollywood, a timeless portrait of corrosive hubris, and the ultimate cautionary tale about never believing your own PR—or more specifically, Harvey Weinstein’s PR.

Overnight was co-directed by Mark Brian Smith and someone called “Tony Montana,” which almost certainly isn’t the name he was born with but is the perfect name for someone associated with Boondock Saints, because the type of guy who had a poster of Al Pacino’s Scarface character in his dorm room in the 90s is exactly the type of guy who had a Boondock Saints poster in his dorm room in the early 2000s, and everyone of a certain age knows such a guy. For that guy to actually be named Tony Montana is almost too perfect.

When Overnight was shot, Montana—a former pro wrestler who would later go on to accuse Kevin Spacey of sexual assault in 2017—was co-manager of Troy Duffy’s band, The Brood. The movie begins in 1997, with the film world abuzz about Duffy, a 27-year-old bartender and bouncer who’s just become the next indie wunderkind after selling his spec script, The Boondock Saints—described by one reader as “Pulp Fiction with soul”—to Harvey Weinstein, for a $300,000 payday and a deal to direct it on a budget of $15 million. As part of the deal, Weinstein was said to be buying J Sloan's—the West Hollywood bar where Duffy worked, which he and Duffy would then co-own—and arranging for The Brood to record the Boondock Saints soundtrack.

Duffy's simultaneous coronation as a filmmaker, musician, and restaurateur is an unprecedented feat, not to mention a great story—and in retrospect, probably a story fully manufactured by Weinstein himself to promote the spec script he’d just bought. But it’s enough to convince Duffy that he’s conquered the world. And since he’s gotten this far by refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees that he’s the second coming of both Kurt Cobain and Quentin Tarantino, he proceeds to tell everyone else he encounters that they’re idiots, too, until he’s basically burned every bridge in town and torpedoed his own sweetheart deals.

Duffy treats every phone call with industry people and every conversation with his bandmates and family members as a performance, designed to create the impression that Troy Duffy is the Sheriff of Ballsville—he knows everything, and everyone else would be fine if they just listened to him. He’s the human embodiment of every cocaine-fueled delusion of grandeur any 20-something has ever had, and quickly goes from being feted by a who’s who of young Hollywood—Jake Busey, Jerry O’Connell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Zane, Jeff Goldblum, Emilio Estevez—to being just another aspiring filmmaker who can’t get a callback.

Meanwhile the film itself is something of a subtextual Rashomon. At first it seems like the story of a megalomaniacal prick ruining his own career before it’s even begun, but eventually you realize you’re watching an amateurish hit piece created by guys who clearly thought Duffy would be their meal ticket and fell out with him when they realized he wasn’t. Like, yes, Duffy seems like a delusional alcoholic, but maybe he actually could’ve become a successful filmmaker, if only he hadn’t gotten blackout drunk every night and promised every one of his friends that he would bring them along with him on his journey to conquer the entertainment industry.

By the end of it, Duffy becomes almost a sympathetic figure—or at least just a pathetic one, an underdog struggling to get his film made against the immovable force of Harvey Weinstein, Overnight’s towering Big Bad. Weinstein may have been right about Duffy being an ungrateful, toxic personality, but the film also documents him using every dirty trick in his arsenal to ratfuck Duffy, for seemingly no other motive beyond petty vengeance. When the filmmakers happen to capture a car crash that occurs while Duffy is standing on a street corner outside his bar, they seem to imply that it could’ve been an assassination attempt engineered by Weinstein.

That conspiratorial leap came off slightly comical at the time, but some of what’s come to light regarding Weinstein in the years since—like the revelation that he’d employed a team of ex-Mossad thugs known as Black Cube as part of his smear campaign against women who had accused him of rape and the journalists who’d reported on those accusations—lend the scenario some credence. At minimum, Duffy’s paranoia no longer seems wholly unjustified.

Of course, the idea that some nefarious titan of industry had worked behind the scenes to keep Troy Duffy’s movie from seeing the light of day may account more than anything for Boondock Saints’ eventual success as a cult DVD (long after which Duffy had signed away any share in the profits). Who wouldn’t want to watch the proverbial “movie Harvey Weinstein didn’t want you to see?”

Troy Duffy was evidently a prick, and Boondock Saints itself plays like someone made an entire film out of Samuel L. Jackson shouting a Bible verse in Pulp Fiction and then decorated the set with crappy props from a Boston St. Paddy’s Day parade—but as the movie makes clear, Duffy swam in a much larger stew of gross personalities, from corrupt studio heads to your typical Hollywood hangers-on leeching off the first person they meet who seems to have some juice.

The only sympathetic characters in Overnight are Duffy’s long-suffering bandmates, including his younger brother Taylor Duffy, whose vocals are good enough to earn praise from music-industry legend (and future missile defense consultant, strangely) Skunk Baxter, of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers; Overnight also shows us Troy Duffy essentially running Baxter out of his studio for daring to suggest Duffy do things like play his guitar parts in the proper time signature. Through Duffy, the band finally achieve their dream of winning a recording contract, only to have it dashed by Duffy’s narcissism. To promote his movie—which is eventually released independently, at half the budget Weinstein originally promised—Duffy convinces them to change the name of the band to The Boondock Saints; their debut album sells around 600 copies.

Maybe it would’ve sold if Duffy hadn’t alienated everyone who tried to help them—or maybe it would’ve tanked anyway and we only ever heard about it in the first place because of Duffy. It’s impossible to know, and every (potential) career in the arts is full of such what-ifs. It’s an age-old story in the entertainment industry, and that’s part of what makes Overnight such a compelling watch. One day you’re recording a single with Skunk Baxter, and the next day you’re back to working construction (like The Brood’s Jimi Jackson) or being an events bartender (like Overnight co-director and Brood co-manager Mark Brian Smith). Whether the world needs another Boondock Saints movie is open to interpretation, but we need the where-are-they-now on all these guys immediately.

Originally Appeared on GQ