There are really two reasons why you’d recognize the name of writer/director Troy Duffy. One, you’re a member of the energized fan base who can recite every line of his 1999 debut, “The Boondock Saints.” A John Woo-styled crime thriller that first trickled out in a perfunctory release, Duffy’s blood-soaked tale of Irish Catholic twins who go vigilante on some Boston mobsters slowly grew into a monstrous cult hit on home video. But if you haven’t seen it, the only other way you’d know Duffy is from the 2003 doc “Overnight,” a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the “Boondock” production, in which the novice filmmaker is depicted as an arrogant jerk who shoots his mouth off, alienating his golden-boy relationship with the Weinstein brothers, who pulled out of financing the movie before shooting started.
Finally getting the multiplex treatment, Duffy returns with “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.” Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery and Billy Connolly are also back — as, respectively, the vengeful MacManus brothers and their father Il Duce — who this time team up with a Latino criminal (Clifton Collins Jr.) and a flirty FBI special agent (Julie Benz) to take down a priest-killer with mob ties. The afternoon after the New York premiere, where the police had been called in to calm down the wild swarms of fans, I sat down with Duffy to discuss the sequel, what he thinks of other people’s opinions, and his uncensored reaction to seeing “Overnight.”
“Boondock Saints II” seems more a love letter to the fans than a necessary continuation of the saga. Would you cop to that?
I definitely made it for the fans, but here’s the way I look at it — we all know the sequels that have worked, the tiniest percent of a percent of a percent, have the same two aspects to them: They give you everything you loved about the first film, plus a brand new, unpredictable storyline. They don’t rest on the laurels of the first film. The cleanest example is “T2,” when Arnold was suddenly the good “Terminator” protecting Sarah Connor. We ate that up, we fucking loved it.
I tried to give “Boondock” fans a completely new story, so if it was a love letter, it was one with lots of effective prose to inspire and motivate the person I was sending it to. I threw as many curveballs as I possibly could. A female lead in “Boondock II,” are you shitting me? Clifton Collins, Peter Fonda and his whole character, with period piece flashbacks to 1950s New York to explain Il Duce’s history? We hopefully pushed the envelope further: more humor, more guns, higher body count, bigger stunts, all wrapped within a story that the fan base could never have seen coming.
The first film was made in the ’90s, when “bullet ballets” and slow-mo shots of dudes walking were a popular style, yet they’re here again in “Boondock Saints II.” Was this meant to have a retro feel or match the style of the original?
I don’t think about shit in terms of what the fuck’s popular or not. I make what I see in my head, and I mainly see myself doing gun scenes in that way, unless there’s a real good reason not to. A fucking cheeseburger can just be bread and meat and cheese, or you can put a whole bunch of crap on it and make a tasty fucking treat. I love to do that kind of shit. I learned from guys like Woo. I watched his movies and saw how effective it could be to dip to black in the middle of a gunfight, to give us that one moment of tension, come back up, and something else is going on. Masters like that, sure, I paid attention.
Considering the first film had such a crippled release, what qualities do you think made it such a success on home video?
When you talk to “Boondock” fans, you get a different reason every time. Some people like it because of the relationship of the brothers, the camaraderie, and some people go apeshit for the religious and vigilantism aspect. I just choose to call it a good fucking movie. If you make it, they will come. You’re right, this movie was effectively abandoned by Hollywood. Had it been given a chance, it would’ve been a gigantic fucking hit. That is no longer a matter of opinion.
There’s some weird magic in this film. It becomes a comfort film. Fans play it over and over again, they know every frame of this thing. If God could tell me the answer to that right now, I wouldn’t want to know. We got together, the kids took over the asylum, and it was just a beautiful fucking explosion. In all fairness, a bunch of people don’t like it intensely, who take the time to try to explain to people how bad this movie is: “Don’t you know why this is bad? A, B, C and D, I went to film school. I know this.” If you see a bad comment posted on “Boondock,” I guarantee the next ten comments are from fans, calling that guy a douchebag.
Have you ever heard any criticisms you felt were legitimate?
No. I mean, everybody’s got an opinion. I hear a criticism, I can show you a million fans that loved that. To me, it’s beyond critiquing, personally. With what this film has achieved, how it was plucked out of the muck by the fans and made successful, that tells me all I need to know it’s a good movie.
What about my gay colleague who took issue with “Boondock Saints II” for its homophobic humor?
We’re an equal opportunity offender. We will fuck with everybody. There was racial humor in the first one, there’s racial humor in the second one. We fuck with Irish, Mexicans, African-Americans, gays, everybody. If anything else rolled into the story, we’d tear that apart, too. If you can’t take a joke, go watch another fucking movie. People who actually look for morality in films and say it’s not real… Of course, it’s not fucking real. It’s a movie! Entertainment business. A lot of people have forgotten about that first word. You’re just supposed to be entertained.