July 23, 2005
I spent a considerable amount of time trying to capture the right screenshot to use for the review of Overnight, and after some time I finally found what I was looking for. It's a short moment when the subject turns, after a long-winded tirade, and glances at the camera.
The subject is Troy Duffy, an LA bartender and musician who has been offered the chance to direct his first screenplay. He is loud, obnoxious; a schoolyard bully and and an aspiring alchoholic. But in that momentary glance, I saw something else: a genuine sadness, a weariness behind all the shouting and the boasts.
Duffy is responsible for making a movie called The Boondock Saints. It is a movie that, like its creator, is incessantly vulgar, violent, obnoxious and vain, and I deplore it deeply. It is without hesitation the sorriest excuse for a film I've seen in years (I stumbled onto the DVD at an acquaintance's house last winter).
The real tragedy, for me at least, is that Boondock Saints has become a cult favorite among teenagers and college students. Young adults who are supposed to know better are actually entertained by this rediculous, schlocky revenge fantasy. That's the thing I can't wrap my head around; I lie awake at nights and fear for the future of the Republic.
Overnight is a documentary about the rise and fall of Troy Duffy, filmed on digital video cameras by two friends, Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith. In 1997, Duffy had a screenplay, played in a band, and worked as a bartender in Los Angelos, which, really, describes half the population of Los Angelos. One day, Harvey Weinstein and Miramax buy his script, agree to produce it, and hand him a $15 million shooting budget, complete with total creative control and right of final cut. As an added bonus, Duffy's band would record the soundtrack, and Weinstein even promised to buy the bar Duffy worked in, and make him a full partner.
As anyone should know, this is manna from Heaven. It is every aspiring filmmaker's wildest dream come true, and Duffy and his friends are ebulliant, drinking it up night after night and making endless boasts of becoming Hollywood legends.
It's very clear that Miramax was looking to capitalize on Quentin Tarantino's sensational success with Pulp Fiction, and saw in the Boondock Saints script an easy cash-in. It's also very clear that Duffy has no experience whatsoever making movies, or even writing. His script is endless cussing and belligerent swearing, just like him.
Montana and Smith are there every step of the way, capturing everything they can. They're very clearly amateurs at this, but at least they show a genuine enthusiasm for what they're doing; more importantly, they demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow.
You don't get that from Duffy, and you can tell within the first five minutes how it all will end out. The long, exhausted faces by everyone in attendance - family, band members, friends in the entourage - spell it all out, too. They're used to this braggart puffing out his chest and issuing damands and threats to the whole world.
Overnight was meant to chronicle Duffy's rise to stardom, but ultimately becomes the story of his fall. It's a live-action version of all those Road Runner cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote gets pummeled by his own ACME traps. After dealing with a hungover blowhard one too many times, Miramax effectively shelves the project, sending it to the dreaded "turnaround" status. This brings out Duffy the bully, Duffy the crybaby, Duffy the fool. He's proves to be the worst kind of fool: the kind that believes his own hype.
I don't gloat in his self-inflicted misfortune, but I don't feel too sorry for him, either. This child has never been turned over a parent's knee, likely never told "no," likely never taken down a notch. Life has a funny way of teaching you those lessons, one way or another.
The ones I truly feel sorry for are his bandmates, and his younger brother, Taylor, who plays guitar. He's the one I sympathize with in this picture. He offers his older sibling love and support, only asking that this dedication spent on The Boondock Saints be equally devoted to the music, Taylor's one true love. And he is repaid with scorn and broken dreams. I'm reminded of the Bob Dylan song, "I Am A Lonesome Hobo," and it just breaks your heart.
Eventually, Boondock Saints is made for a fraction of the original budget, somehow lumbers through production, in spite of the presence of decent acting talent and the great Willem Dafoe (we'll just forget about Ron Jeremy altogether, please). It is screened at Cannes in the wake of the Columbine shootings, and, understandably, no one makes any offers (the movie's suggestion of a vast Weinstein conspiracy is patenly ludicrous, and it's Overnight's greatest fault). It eventually plays on five screens, then disappears to home video.
As a final gesture to Troy Duffy's management skills, he is never given royalties from sales of the DVD, which, again to my great frustration, became a cult hit. The final shot of Duffy barreling off a roof into a large pool couldn't be more appropriate.