Sub-Cult

The Boondock Saints Is Bad, but the Scathing Documentary About Its Toxic Director Is Mesmerizing

Nathan Rabin looks back at a fascinating portrayal of the power of delusion and the dangers of instant fame.

by | August 30, 2017 | Comments

(Photo by ThinkFilm)

A couple months ago, it was announced that, after a blissful decade away from movies, The Boondock Saints writer/director Troy Duffy was returning to film with his third motion picture, The Blood Spoon Council, a gloomy new thriller that looks an awful lot like The Boondock Saints. On one level, the news isn’t terribly surprising. Despite bombing in theaters and with critics, The Boondock Saints has gone on to attract a huge and alarming cult enamored by its toxic brand of hyper-masculinity and “Tarantino For Dummies” macho posturing, and it was successful enough to inspire a tardy 2009 sequel in The Boondocks Saints: All Saints Day.

But Duffy is just as well-known — if not better known — as the subject, star, hero, anti-hero, and villain of Overnight, a movie so utterly damning in its depiction of Duffy as a boozy, obnoxious monster of id and ego that it’s surprising it didn’t kill his film career in its infancy.

The success of Pulp Fiction and the cult of Quentin Tarantino very briefly made auteurs the rock stars of the 1990s in the same way the comedy boom made stand-ups the rock stars of the 1980s. Duffy, however, didn’t just think of himself as a rock star of independent film, he thought of himself as a rock star, period. Not only did his script for The Boondock Saints briefly make him one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, but he was also part of a band called The Brood that was the subject of intense interest from labels like Madonna’s Maverick Records.

Around the same time, Duffy was making headlines for a deal in which Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, the all-powerful mogul who helped make Tarantino and Kevin Smith happen, bought the script for The Boondocks Saints for hundreds of thousands of dollars and additionally agreed to purchase the bar where Duffy worked (and where he wrote The Boondock Saints) so they could run it together.

Overnight is not the story of a good man corrupted by money, power, and success. Oh God, no. It’s pretty clear that Duffy was always a narcissistic dictator in the making. The money, power, and instant fame merely empowered Duffy further to be as horrible and destructive a human being as he could possibly be.

Overnight is not the story of a good man corrupted by money, power, and success.

Duffy’s situation in the beginning of Overnight is genuinely unprecedented, ridiculous, and extreme. He briefly seems poised to rise from roughneck bouncer with a drinking problem to hotshot auteur with a major label recording contract and a documentary about his incredible ascent. If all that weren’t exciting and dramatic enough, he and one of the most powerful men in entertainment were about to become co-owners of the dive bar where he worked.

If Duffy ever experienced a moment of gratitude for being plucked from obscurity and elevated to great heights, he never expresses it here. The would-be auteur behaves as if the movie and music industries should be grateful he has chosen to favor them with his singular genius, and if the mindless peons he’s forced to interact with on his way up are appropriately deferential, then maybe he’ll show them mercy after he’s attained the Spielbergian power and influence he is absolutely guaranteed to achieve.

Duffy is so arrogant and naive that when he’s dealing with Harvey Weinstein, one of the most feared and intimidating men in the history of film, he behaves as if he’s negotiating with an equal, or even someone beneath him. Usually it’s depressing to see Weinstein crush the dreams and egos of young, ambitious filmmakers, but when the filmmaker in question is as unbearable (and seemingly anti-Semitic) as Duffy is, it’s hard not to take a certain evil delight in Weinstein’s Machiavellian power plays. Weinstein and Duffy are both bullying, arrogant monsters, so their battle is a little like Godzilla versus King Kong, only if Godzilla were actually Godzilla and King Kong were a child in costume. Needless to say, Duffy is the kid in the monkey suit.

When Weinstein fails to take concrete action to get The Boondock Saints made on a meaty $15 million budget (ostensibly enough to attract stars like a pre-Boogie Nights Mark Wahlberg), Duffy makes one of a series of astonishingly tone-deaf professional decisions and begins bad-mouthing him all around town.

If you were to make a list of people you would never want to antagonize as an aspiring filmmaker, Harvey Weinstein would be number one for decades. Yet Duffy seems convinced that his script is perfect, a guaranteed moneymaker, and that executives would happily knife each other for the right to bring his masterpiece to the big screen.

Not amused or impressed by his antics, Weinstein drops Duffy, who subsequently goes from red-hot to ice-cold. No matter how arrogant they are, a lot of filmmakers would learn from such an intense, traumatic experience. It would engender some sense of perspective, or gratitude, or an attitude adjustment. Not so, with Duffy.

There’s something inherently fascinating about oblivious narcissists.

After Weinstein exits the picture, both literally and figuratively, Duffy somehow still manages to get the movie made, albeit with less than half the budget and no guaranteed distribution. It’s nevertheless enough to muster a relatively slick production with recognizable stars like Willem Dafoe. But instead of being humbled by his earlier experiences with Miramax and Harvey Weinstein, Duffy doubles down on his conviction. There’s no way his movie — and debut rock album — could ever be anything other than a success on par with Pulp Fiction, or Thriller.

There’s something inherently fascinating about oblivious narcissists. Duffy has no idea how the world sees him. He seems to think the documentary chronicling the making of his debut film will portray him like Francis Ford Coppola in Hearts of Darkness, the essential behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now, or Werner Herzog in the equally essential The Burden of Dreams. He labors under the delusion that he will come across as a fiery and passionate anti-hero, a larger-than-life genius willing to go through hell — and to subject others to torment — to realize his uncompromising vision. If the egos of lesser creatures have to be destroyed for this to happen, then that’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make.

Duffy bullies, taunts, and insults a whole lot of people over the course of Overnight, including the co-managers of his band, both of whom he financially screws over once his band finally lands a recording contract. In another example of Duffy’s poor judgment, the fired co-managers also happen to be the directors he hired to chronicle the making of The Boondock Saints — and that film eventually became Overnight. What Duffy clearly thought would be a celebratory demonstration of his genius instead became a delicious form of revenge exacted by two dudes who had even more reason to hate Duffy than most. Overnight is a fitting title, but Schadenfreude: The Movie or Screw Troy Duffy! would have been equally perfect.

Overnight goes further to recount the rise and fall of The Boondock Saints after it’s barely released and more or less goes direct to video, as well as the trajectory of Duffy and his band’s major label debut, which sells an impressively pathetic grand total of 690 copies. The film ends on an intensely satisfying note, though the poor members of Duffy’s former band are reduced to working day jobs, as Duffy is unable to secure work as a writer or director in the six years following The Boondock Saints.

Duffy’s downfall is an archetypal journey fueled by ego and booze and self-delusion.

Overnight luxuriates in the downfall of a man who thought the world owed him everything (and better not be slow in delivering) crushed by the realities of the entertainment business and his own ego. It’s the story of a man convinced he would become the world’s greatest success and failed despite all of the hype of his Horatio Alger story-turned-harrowing cautionary tale.

Yet, in a way, Duffy hasn’t really failed at all, and that might actually be the most depressing aspect of his story. He was certain The Boondock Saints deserved an audience and would find one. He clearly saw it attracting a Pulp Fiction-sized blockbuster following, but instead it inspired a much smaller, much less discriminating cult of fans.

The self-mythologizing scumbag bouncer from Boston got to make his movie with stars like Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly, and then he got to make a sequel. Now Variety has  announced he’s got another film in the chamber, in addition to something called Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em and a comedy project called Black Ghost he co-wrote with Cedric the Entertainer. Oh, and in case you’re worried that Duffy is abandoning his beloved Boondock Saints franchise, don’t be: a TV spin-off series is on the way as well.

Duffy’s downfall, as documented in Overnight, is pure show-biz, an archetypal journey fueled by ego and booze and self-delusion. The entertainment industry’s apparent willingness to welcome Duffy back despite his horrific and very public failings as an artist and human being in hopes of cashing in on more Boondock Saints-style cult success is equally show-biz. There is no crime, moral or otherwise, that Hollywood can’t forgive if they think there’s a big payday in it for them.

Though Duffy has a pretty full slate ahead of him, I suspect that the only way he could ever make a good movie again would be if he signed on to star in a sequel to Overnight, but even a man as arrogant and deluded and in love with himself as Duffy clearly seems to be must know that that would be a terrible idea.


Original Certification: Fresh
Tomatometer: 78 percent
Re-Certification: Fresh


Nathan Rabin is a freelance writer, columnist, the first head writer of The A.V. Club and the author of four books, most recently Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NathanRabin

Tag Cloud

boxoffice zombie chucky best Nickelodeon documentary Binge Guide south america ABC Family facebook The Arrangement WGN Rom-Com werewolf asian-american quibi theme song 20th Century Fox binge halloween Emmy Nominations Toys Universal jamie lee curtis TV foreign Amazon Prime technology harry potter psychological thriller teaser Apple TV+ Black History Month Captain marvel Nominations San Diego Comic-Con Hallmark Election miniseries kids Drama First Reviews 2018 Oscars TCM Set visit blaxploitation sag awards Ghostbusters strong female leads sitcom concert Elton John Musicals TIFF Comics on TV Film Festival crossover all-time mission: impossible Lionsgate Bravo thriller romantic comedy Mindy Kaling Shudder cats Disney Channel Fall TV adventure game show El Rey sequel Grammys breaking bad directors 71st Emmy Awards Countdown comiccon criterion cults 2016 Mary Tyler Moore National Geographic spider-man joker Spectrum Originals Star Wars Quiz Netflix Hear Us Out reboot Character Guide Video Games slashers USA Women's History Month Disney Plus DGA animated Lifetime Christmas movies FXX 2015 spy thriller Holidays Rock die hard dogs RT History cancelled TV shows The Walking Dead richard e. Grant Warner Bros. Acorn TV anthology Academy Awards christmas movies TCA war Cannes NYCC Mudbound DC Universe Winners reviews Thanksgiving diversity 24 frames ESPN Marvel Television Action casting CMT Baby Yoda X-Men universal monsters independent Emmys Writers Guild of America hist The Purge movies sports Tarantino Discovery Channel President Sundance TV Family witnail Rocketman Arrowverse Comedy Tumblr Masterpiece hispanic Travel Channel Food Network Polls and Games 2019 Walt Disney Pictures E3 Shondaland Horror Marvel golden globes cooking Film Amazon Prime Video singing competition FOX Disney 2020 Best and Worst TruTV Starz Disney streaming service Trailer romance BET CBS true crime Infographic 21st Century Fox Paramount Network TLC cancelled DC streaming service canceled Valentine's Day Superheroes Marathons Teen Epix American Society of Cinematographers spanish language Pet Sematary Interview franchise adaptation Comedy Central video SundanceTV Reality Competition cars canceled TV shows zero dark thirty revenge Comic Book Biopics Calendar Hulu ITV Cartoon Network Sundance transformers Vudu Nat Geo unscripted Summer spain RT21 Trophy Talk GLAAD Awards Tour children's TV Logo disaster psycho Pixar Heroines Opinion supernatural 007 CW Seed Hallmark Christmas movies Freeform Musical nature Lucasfilm Amazon Studios Crackle LGBT Marvel Studios Peacock justice league cops Sci-Fi HBO Winter TV versus zombies parents YA Pride Month Star Trek dceu OneApp Fox News Amazon travel cartoon Endgame Pop biography TCA Winter 2020 FX on Hulu Schedule Tomatazos Crunchyroll TBS Superheroe SDCC The CW Cosplay politics Ellie Kemper blockbuster discovery Ovation police drama Red Carpet A24 Mary Poppins Returns NBC science fiction elevated horror Music VH1 finale political drama series Extras Turner Classic Movies Chernobyl award winner Lifetime toy story Awards Photos Reality The Witch Apple Holiday Stephen King aliens a nightmare on elm street cancelled TV series space MTV TV Land Western Animation TCA 2017 what to watch anime scary movies Year in Review Turner name the review Song of Ice and Fire BBC America child's play critics SXSW Sony Pictures Sundance Now spinoff YouTube Premium See It Skip It ABC Pop TV Tubi Trivia Disney+ Disney Plus BBC Rocky composers dc Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt HBO Max Television Academy crime based on movie Anna Paquin Martial Arts MSNBC Sneak Peek mutant dramedy green book PBS TNT Showtime Paramount YouTube Red Apple TV Plus free movies APB Esquire Avengers OWN stand-up comedy YouTube screen actors guild talk show Podcast Syfy renewed TV shows Netflix Christmas movies First Look WarnerMedia IFC Films FX Super Bowl Adult Swim book VICE Funimation ratings PaleyFest Britbox screenings medical drama Spike A&E cinemax robots 45 latino MCU rotten movies we love crime thriller Creative Arts Emmys dragons ghosts Brie Larson Chilling Adventures of Sabrina New York Comic Con Box Office indie vampires Fantasy comedies Dark Horse Comics Mary poppins USA Network Pirates period drama History docudrama DC Comics CBS All Access doctor who Kids & Family LGBTQ Premiere Dates Certified Fresh festivals crime drama cancelled television mockumentary Columbia Pictures 4/20 Spring TV streaming comic Country movie tv talk Black Mirror natural history stoner game of thrones Christmas historical drama CNN 2017 comics IFC television E! serial killer GIFs batman Mystery AMC Watching Series Classic Film GoT DirecTV social media TV renewals dark