Ten years is a long time to wait for any movie, and it's even worse for a sequel. With each passing year, the likelihood that it will be any good drops exponentially, while the expectations can only continue to rise. The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day was pushed back relentlessly, on top of repeated financial backing woes, as well as the release of a documentary (Overnight, which if you haven't seen is definitely worth checking out) in which the filmmaker, Troy Duffy, is portrayed as a complete asshole. Not to mention that when the movie finally came out (a good three years after the originally intended release) it only graced 68 theaters. Despite all this, and despite opening on Halloween weekend against the World Series, Michael Jackson's This Is It, and seasonal blockbusters like Paranormal Activity, Saw VI, and Where the Wild Things Are, each of those 68 theaters pulled in over $8,000, resulting in a half million dollar opening weekend - not bad for an obscure, near straight-to-DVD cult classic's sequel released only on the coasts.
This movie has numerous detractors, including some longtime fans, and they're not all wrong. Firstly, the direction mimics that of the original to a fault; it loses the freshness of the original because of this. Not only that, but in the effort to repeat the first movie's structure, it's almost as though Duffy lost his touch with some scenes; for instance, one revelation in particular suffers because it was placed awkwardly. There are many good things about this aspect as well, however - I'll return to this in a moment.
While it quickly becomes clear that the new characters aren't new so much as they are replacements for the absent characters from the original, it's far from a disaster. Clifton Collins, Jr. fills the comic relief slot very well with a believable character and humorous dialogue. Where he holds his own, however, Julie Benz's Eunice Bloom (Protégé of Willem Dafoe's Paul Smecker) does not. Which is not to say Benz does a bad job, not at all; it's the character. The reason Romeo(Collins) works is because he feels like a genuine character, even in spite of the fact that he's obviously replacing the role that Rocco served in the first. Bloom feels like a desperate attempt to keep the feel of the original in tact; not only does she emanate Smecker to the point of redundancy, but she does it unconvincingly. When Smecker curses and condescends to the bumbling Boston detectives (all of whom return), it's an amusing extension of the character. When Bloom does it (in ridiculous abundance) it's trite and postured. She is even worked into one of the action flashback scenes, and it is handled so strangely it borders on embarrassing. The other new character based on a previous now deceased one is Concezio Yakavetta, played by Judd Nelson. Nelson has an unexpectedly small amount of time on the screen, but like Collins' Romeo, he has a believable character and performs it quite well.
Regardless of all of this, the film has many pleasant surprises to offer, which I won't go over; if you really want a synopsis that badly though, far be it from me to deny you that.
Picking up again on the direction, although it's a clone of the original, it's not poorly executed entirely. Duffy's charisma is definitely still there; you get the sense that had he decided to go against a caricature of his debut, he would not be at a loss for ideas. Looking past the numerous references to the first Boondock Saints movie, there is still a solid, engrossing story here. The dialogue is just as witty and engaging as it was before, as are most of the scene transitions, and the action is everything one would expect. And while the aforementioned documentary Overnight was extremely unflattering of Duffy as a director, it's telling that so many actors reprise their roles; hell, even the police chief is played by the same actor.
....Richard Fitzpatrick, in case you were wondering.
As for the rest of the cast, let's go ahead and handle the proverbial elephant in the room - yes, Sean Patrick Flanery has aged quite a bit. Ten years, in fact. Norman Reedus looks more or less the same, but for whatever reason his onscreen brother does not. This has been pointed out many, many times, and while it's true, it's not really valid. He still acts just as well, as does everyone else; Billy Connolly in particular shines in his scenes. His character, the brothers' father Noah, is treated to a surprisingly convincing background story a la Godfather Pt. II, though it isn't overdone in the least and applies perfectly to the film; in other words, it doesn't feel like Duffy was just adding shit from one of his favorite movies for sake of doing so.
More personally, as a huge fan of the franchise I was worried that David Della Rocco's reprisal would be insanely cheesy and unnecessary. After seeing it.. unnecessary yes, cheesy... almost, but not quite. Perhaps in the last ten years he sought some acting education, as he is still the same old Rocco but better portrayed, and in the small dose in which he serves best.
For fans of the first, if you can see it, see it. Word has it that the Boondock Saints II is going to be expanded as of November 13th due to the impressive turnout ("thanks for comin' out!"), and hopefully more will be able to decide for themselves. Again, this film has many surprises to boast, one of which had the theater I saw it in cheering. As long as you don't expect the sequel to perfectly match it, you'll love it. Yes, ultimately it was a re-hash of the first movie with a story that wasn't quite as strong, but it was still extremely enjoyable. Perhaps a better indicator of the movie's quality than this review was the conversation I had after watching it with my friend, which is an exchange I have no doubt has happened many times since October 30th:
"It was just trying to be the first one!"
"Well yeah, and it's not as good as the first, but it's still pretty good."
"Oh god, stop defending it! What, you gonna run out and buy it when the DVD comes out?"
"Hell yes I am, and so will you!"
"....yeah, I probably will..."