Posted at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2006
by Euan Kerr
I spent part of the weekend in the cinematic company of Troy Duffy. Somehow I missed the whole "Boondock Saints" phenomenon (or I had forgotten it) until Malcolm the 15 year old announced the film was the "Best movie ever" and we had to rent it.
So we did.
When I saw the "Saints" a couple of weeks back, it left me unsettled. It's the story of two Irish catholic brothers in Boston who through their heart-felt bonds to family and their neighborhood bar launch themselves as vigilantes against the predations of the local Russian mafia.
It wasn't the movie's plentiful supply of gore and mayhem that was particularly creepy. It was more the way Duffy as screenwriter and director blends Celtic culture, Catholicism, and working class values, to create a couple of affable homicidal maniacs who feel justified in blowing away anyone they feel is a bad guy. They take the fact that they repeatedly get away with it when even they admit they shouldn't as evidence of divine protection.
On learning there was a documentary "Overnight" about the story behind the story I had to have a look.
It's almost as disturbing as the "Saints." In 1999 Troy Duffy had Hollywood on a plate. Miramax fingered him, or more accurately his script, as the next big thing, and Harvey Weinstein dropped a boatload of cash on Duffy's close-cropped head. The deal went like this: $15 million to make the movie; Duffy, who has never made a film before gets to direct AND has final cut on the film: his band "The Brood" is to provide the soundtrack; AND Weinstein and Duffy will become co-owners of the Irish pub where Duffy worked bar as he was writing the script. Duffy told the group of friends he formed into a company called "The Syndicate" he was taking them along for the ride and they were going to change the music and film business.
Critically for film fans, he decided to let a couple of friends, who were also the co-managers of the band, video what happens.
Duffy comes across as quick on his feet, opinionated, and passionate about what he is doing. He is also utter convinced in his own infallibility.
It was an amazing deal, and just as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. "Overnight" follows Duffy as Weinstein stops returning his calls, and then as he learns in the press Miramax has dropped the project. A recording deal for The Brood evaporates, and then Duffy has to scramble to find financing again. He gets the film made on half the original budget, but then can't get distribution beyond a few weeks of screening in just 5 theaters. It's just after Columbine and the industry is wary of marketing a film where black-clad desperados repeatedly gun down people.
Through it all Duffy becomes increasingly egomaniacal. The problems are always someone else's fault. He alienates everyone, including all the members of the Syndicate. The word on the street is Harvey Weinstein says Duffy is blacklisted. As "Overnight" wraps up six years after the Miramax deal "Boondock Saints" has become a video store cult favorite, but Troy Duffy has lost all traction in the film business.
Of course it's not an unusual Hollywood story. what's unusual is how clearly this has been caught on film. It's a cautionary tale both for people who make films and those who watch them too.
Be cautionary, sure, lost all traction? Not. Fasten your seatbelt for the next ride. The digital release through national Cinemedia last summer drew record crowds...