Ten years ago, a tragedy struck in Colorado at Columbine High School. The story is well known by now, but to sum it up, two whacked out teenagers went into school one day armed to the teeth and murdered 12 of their fellow students and one teacher. This was around the same time The Boondock Saints was prepping for a theatrical run, but due to these events, it was only shown on a very limited number of screens and was therefore thought to be dead. However, the film went on to rake in an impressive number of DVD sales and created a massive cult following that cherished it, but I do not know why. The Boondock Saints is a sloppy film all around and here we are 10 years later with a better, slightly less sloppy sequel that does just enough to be enjoyable. Whereas I wouldn't recommend the original, I feel comfortable expressing my approval for The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, though I'm not without my reservations.
The movie takes place years after the first film and the Saints, played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, are living in Ireland away from civilization with their father, played by Billy Connolly. Back in their old hometown of Boston, a priest has been murdered using the Saints' trademark method—two shots to the back of the head and coins placed over the victim's eyes—which pulls the boys out of retirement to track down this killer. In the original, they think they are being called by God to kill evil men, but this copycat killer has killed a good man, a priest, and they want to clear their names and catch the murderer, so they strap up their guns and head back home.
I think there's a stark contrast between the original film and this sequel. The original tried far too hard to be cool. Its hipster attitude and profanity-laden lingo grated on the nerves. The sequel tries less hard and is consequently way cooler. It seems that most of what I hated in the first movie is rectified here, but it still suffers from a poor narrative and a lack of a strong emotional connection.
Everyone you can possibly imagine reprises their roles from the original movie, even the bar owner with Tourette syndrome, and I'm of the belief that the acting in that flick was fairly bad. Thankfully, the passage of time has added some much needed finesse to the the two lead actors' abilities. They are much better here (sans a late emotional scene where they are laughably awful). The only difference in casting that I could spot is that Willem Dafoe, who overacted his part in the original, is replaced with Julie Benz. She plays essentially the same character Dafoe did, an FBI investigator who studies crime scenes and can tell you exactly what went down, but she is absolutely atrocious. She can't even chew gum convincingly. She becomes so distracting that every scene she is in detracts from the experience. Every time I thought the movie was finally starting to get good, she would appear onscreen and crush those thoughts.
The director, Troy Duffy, also shows a considerable amount more polish here than he did in the amateurly handled original. Although he has only directed two movies (both being The Boondock Saints films), he must have been studying for the last 10 years because he flexes his directorial muscles a little better here, which includes establishing a constant tone that fits the film. This movie does a better job of mixing its lively humor with intense violence and a large part of that is thanks to Duffy's evolution as a director.
Although The Boondock Saints II lacks what I would call a "story" (it's more like loosely connected plot points that get the Saints from place to place to set up action scenes), the characters in the movie are more fleshed out. In the original film, the cops were relegated to props. They were nothing more than idiotic comic relief characters that would pop up solely for the purpose of being humiliated. In the sequel, they are side characters no longer. They are drawn out and have actual personalities. Just as much time is spent with them as the Saints and I enjoyed that.
Even the humor is better. Both films are filled to the brim with comedic moments, this one even more so than the original, but more of it works here because it's smarter and more subtle. The original's humor was too sudden, violent and in your face, like the fan favorite scene where a cat is accidentally shot and its innards splatter all over the wall. In this movie, jokes were common, but they weren't forcefully thrown at you. They casually slipped in when appropriate and it worked much better.
Of course, this is most definitely not a perfect film. It may be better than the original, but only slightly so and that film was no masterpiece. Much of it is in bad taste, which includes racial remarks, stereotypes and rape jokes, some of which are funny, but most of which are not. It's also incredibly immature, shown most evidently by a slow motion nose pick that is revolting and completely unnecessary. The list goes on.
I know I've spent the majority of this review comparing the two movies in the franchise, but that's only because so much of this one hinges on its predecessor. It's unavoidable. The jokes, the situations, pretty much everything is a wink and a nod to the original film and unless you are familiar with it, you won't get as much out of this one as you could otherwise. This is a film made for the fans and it shows. Although I wouldn't recommend the first movie, I liked The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and the myriad of references to the original almost makes me want to go back and revisit it...almost.
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day receives 3/5