Saturday, April 10, 2010

Troy Duffy and Overnight

by Jason Pyles

Troy Duffy. Ah, I haven’t seen such a good villain in a documentary since Billy Mitchell in “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” which by the way, is an absolute must-see, whether you like video games or not. And if you have any interest in the drama found behind the scenes in the filmmaking business, “Overnight” is also a must-see.

For those who don’t know, Troy Duffy is the writer-director of “The Boondock Saints” and its sequel, “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” both of which have a cult following comparable to the “Twilight” enthusiasts. Therefore, I am prepared, since this post is vulnerably exposed on the Internet, for The Great Defenders to ensure that I don’t say anything negative about the objects of their affection. Indeed, Troy Duffy himself might happen upon this post and light up the comments section with expletives and other intelligent colorful metaphors. So be it.

Comment away, of course, but please answer this: What’s the story behind Troy Duffy’s writing of “The Boondock Saints,” and how did Harvey Weinstein ever come to read his script? I’d just like to know how this all came about. I like Smith & Montana’s film, but I only wish it explained the preliminary connections that preceded the footage found in the film.

I mean, “The Boondock Saints” is OK — entertaining, to be sure — but like Roger Ebert, I wonder why Harvey Weinstein was initially so taken with Duffy. Or was he? I mean, we only hear Duffy’s version of the story, so perhaps he never was this golden boy that he suggests.

And by the way, was it his first script? How many drafts did he write? Where did he learn screenwriting? I’m so intrigued by Duffy’s process, because he doesn’t seem like a writer. He’s like a kid I knew in grade school named John C. There was an art contest in which he entered a perfectly drawn rainbow trout. Everybody knew he didn’t draw it, but he still won the contest, anyway. (What could the judges do?) Now, I’m not saying Duffy didn’t write his scripts, I’m just saying I’m surprised that he did. As Andy has mentioned, we can definitely see from the movies themselves that these scripts come from Duffy.

In any event, film deals fall through all the time in Hollywood. Projects commonly go into turnaround and suffer in Development Hell. But I think it’s apparent from this documentary — even if it is “selectively edited” — that Duffy sunk his own ship. He shot himself in the foot with his own hubris. I’m not here to judge Duffy or talk smack about him; it’s just the only conclusion I can draw after seeing this film.

Undoubtedly, as we see in the film, the directors Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith arguably had reason to edit this film in such a way that it cast Duffy in an unfavorable light. I mean, who knows, maybe they had footage of Duffy saving a puppy from the road or helping old ladies across the street, but I doubt it. Duffy exposes himself in this film.

Still, there are moments when these filmmakers are, themselves, vulnerable under the scrutinizing eye of the camera lens, but to their credit, they include those moments, and I respect them for that.

The most tragic character in the film, to me, was Troy’s brother, Taylor, who truly seems to live for their band, and at one point has a heart-felt talk with his brother that falls on deaf ears, incurring more wrath.

But hey, again, I’m not here to judge Troy Duffy. I’ll judge his films and call them OK. Willem Dafoe steals the show — and in fact, is the show — in the first film. The second suffers without him, though Clifton Collins Jr. is a fine character actor whom I admire. His performance in the second movie makes it worth seeing.

In “The Boondock Saints” films, before the saints execute their victims, they recite a prayer and speak in scriptural tongue. Well, after watching “Overnight,” I can comfortably say Troy Duffy’s saints should recite Proverbs 16: 18 to him, which reads:

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Still, I must admit, I hope Troy Duffy keeps making films. He does have some talent. I’m curious to see what else he can do.

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