Published on August 22nd, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
Because You’ve Seen The Boondock Saints So Many Times
Maybe it’s a giant rip-off mash-up; maybe it’s a uniquely brilliant flick. Either way, Kim examines the extraordinary and disastrous story behind The Boondock Saints.
I have to admit that it had been donkey’s years since I last watched The Boondock Saints (1999). I had forgotten most of the details, and enjoyed revisiting the movie, but as soon as it was over I decided against writing a Because You’ve Seen… about it. Briefly. My first thought was that The Boondock Saints is the answer to one of these columns, not the question. This is what you watch when you’ve seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) so many times, or Pulp Fiction (1994), or The Killer (1989), because it’s all Ritchie and Woo and Tarantino in its derivation.
Usually at the end of these articles, I mention some box office stats to provide context for how well or poorly something did financially. Today, for the first time, this is where we start. I didn’t see The Boondock Saints in the theatre, and neither did you. It made exactly what it deserved: $30,471. Yes, seriously. And I’m not saying that because it isn’t a good movie. It’s an amazing movie, but I’m not talking about what you see on the screen. I’m talking about the story of how it was made.
Fair warning, I learned a lot about this movie after watching it again and if it’s one of your special favourites, you might want to stop reading right here. Or maybe you know all about writer/director Troy Duffy and it doesn’t bother you. But it bothered me, and now I’m more fascinated by the making of this movie than I am by the movie itself. I’m going to spill the facts out to you unceremoniously and it might feel a little like getting hit in the head with a toilet from five stories above. You ready?
Troy Duffy was born and raised in Connecticut, but moved out to L.A. to start a band. He was working as a bartender and bouncer in a West Hollywood dive bar when he wrote a script called The Boondocks Saints. Harvey Weinstein, a.k.a. Jabba the Hutt, made a deal with Duffy through Miramax. A crazy, lotto ticket of a deal that allowed a 25-year-old alcoholic $15M to make his movie, direct it, and have his band score the film. Weinstein even offered to buy the bar Duffy was working at and make him co-owner. It made big, surprising news all over Hollywood and American tv. What happens next is unfathomable to my sense of gratitude, but watching Duffy cock it all up was as enjoyable as it was astonishing.
Duffy’s script got everyone’s attention. Everyone. He had conversations with Patrick Swayze, Mark Wahlberg, Ewen McGregor and Sir Kenneth Branagh. Wahlberg said no in favour of Boogie Nights (1997), and McGregor passed after Duffy got drunk and argumentative in their meeting. Duffy then refused to even meet with Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt and Ethan Hawke, calling them all names in the process. Those actors weren’t worthy of Duffy’s immaculate consideration. The studio suggested that Detective Smeckler (Willem Dafoe) be played by Sylvester Stallone, Bill Murray or Mike Myers. Duffy scoffed at all of them. De Niro, Swayze, Branagh and Spacey all passed on the role.
Is now a good time to remind you that Duffy was just an alcoholic bartender with absolutely zero experience making movies? He was becoming disgustingly pompous and splitting his time between production of the movie and his band, The Brood, who make me feel like I might enjoy Nickelback as an alternative. Nickelback is a bucket of hot vomit.
All of this is captured in the documentary Overnight (2003), and it’s definitely what you should watch if you’ve seen The Boondock Saints a million times.
Duffy had convinced his bandmates and friends to work for for him at the pay scale of free ninety-nine. Every time it looked like deals were moving forward and money was about to pour in, he would find new ways to explain that they weren’t entitled to a dime of it. It was pathetic, frustrating, selfishly ugly and I didn’t even have to sit in the room with them.
Then, just as the palpable tensions and inexperience in filmmaking reached its apex, Weinstein and Miramax put The Boondock Saints into turnaround. In a single abrupt moment, Miramax retracted all of its support of Duffy’s movie and no other studio in Hollywood wanted to touch this turd, afraid of the stench of death wafting off this once great and promising script. Or, afraid of the wrath of Weinstein. Either way, Duffy had to re-cast, make consolations and start again. On top of all that, since he painted himself into a corner like a god-damn Three Stooges skit, he signed a new deal that no one in their right mind would go for. Except, maybe a drunken chain-smoker with more hubris than a Greek mythology.
Eventually, filming wrapped and the final product was in the can. The budget had been reduced to less than $6M and, as a final fuck-you to Duffy, his movie was released in just five U.S. theatres for a mere week. It flopped, duh. But thanks to an exclusive deal with Blockbuster Video (hey, remember them?), the home rentals helped make it a cult classic. Duffy received $0.00 in residuals, rentals, television and foreign sales. His band broke up after their debut album sold just 690 copies in six months and their label dropped them. Duffy returned to work at the bar where Weinstein had found him three years earlier.
Overnight is a very interesting look at self-destruction. It’s 82 minutes of watching Duffy rise like a rocket in the night sky, followed by him falling in the dark like an empty, discarded fuel tank. He was condescending and patronizing, vitriol pouring from his mouth. He drank, smoked and bragged relentlessly, until the documentary starts to become a revenge movie, where the ‘bad guy’ gets served justice.
I realize that you’re probably better off to follow up Boondock Saints with something like The Town (2010), but I think you already know that. Perhaps what you didn’t know (I mean, how could you?) is that The Boondock Saints, enjoyable as it may be, is the work of a very lucky, very stupid, very bloated 26-year-old bartender. The limited release of the movie was not because of the Columbine shootings – that’s just a popular rumour. It was because a guy won the lottery, flaunted it like an asshole, and was put in his place. The lord giveth, and the lord taketh away.
I’m not sure if I’m going to revisit The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) and I’m not sure if there’s a good answer for what to watch next when you’ve seen The Boondocks Saints so many times. But, there is a whole new way to revisit that film with a very different perspective of understanding, and an enjoyable game of ‘what if’ to play while doing it.
The Boondocks Saints is streaming now on Amazon Prime.