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The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Written and Directed by Troy Duffy

Starring Sean Patrtick Flanery and Norman Reedus

Rated R

In Theaters Today

When I heard Troy Duffy had made a sequel to The Boondock Saints, I was speechless.

And for good reason. The vigilante tale of two Irish brothers who set out to rid Boston of evil men received mostly poor reviews after its release a decade ago, but has since built a substantial cult following. While it ranks as one of my personal favorite films, it always seemed to be the kind of movie you could only do once.

Now, Boondock fans be warned: this is not the original. The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day does not even attempt to replicate the artsiness and bluntness that made its predecessor so memorable. But the Saints are back, and it’s definitely something to get excited about.

We find the MacManus brothers (played excellently by Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery) hiding in rural Ireland with their father, Il Duce (Billy Connolly). But when news comes that a Boston priest was found murdered in the trademark Saints’ fashion — shot through the head with two pennies placed over the eyes — they return to Boston to exact revenge.

As a crime thriller, the movie is average. The brothers’ pursuit of the mob is fun, but we see a little too much mob. The son of Yakavetta — the mob boss they executed in a public courtroom at the end of the last film — is now the big guy in charge, but he doesn’t seem to have inherited Yakavetta’s fearful presence. Sure, he’s incredibly dangerous; at one point, he knocks one of his cronies in the mouth so hard that for the rest of the film he’s stuck speaking with an exaggerated lisp. But his graphically crude humor often feels forced, and in a number of scenes I found myself wishing I was back on the brothers’ plot line.

But probably the most engaging aspect of the film are the character interactions. The brothers have a new sidekick — played by Clifton Collins Jr. — and their scenes together are hilarious. The smooth-talking Mexican is no Rocco (a close friend and accomplice from the original), but his scenes with the brothers are explosive. Throwbacks to old-school Saints scenes, like when the brothers bicker over how much rope Connor MacManus brought along on a mission, elicited the loudest audience applause in the screening, and are sure to be much appreciated by fans. The new detective on the case — a sexy, quick-thinking southerner played by Julie Benze from the television series Dexter — might at first seem a debatable followup to Willem Dafoe’s epic performance in the last film, but will win you over by the end.

I found that to be true about a lot of aspects of All Saints Day: it had to work to win me over. New characters, a strong emphasis on humor, and a whole different dynamic from the original kept me holding my judgments for longer than probably should’ve been necessary. But while the first two-thirds of the film was enjoyable, once the pace picked up it turned great. Awe-inducing murders, a great deal of interesting backstory, and successful plot twists culminate in an unforgettable finale that reminds you both why you loved the original and why you ought to at least respect the care that went into producing this film. As director Troy Duffy put it, “fear” of messing with the original film’s fan base “quickly turned to love” on the set, and that love emanates throughout the film.