(or DUFFY: A PRICK AND HIS DREAM)
A few years back I used to always hear about this movie THE BOONDOCK SAINTS. Some kid told me his brother saw it in Boston and it was the shit, he was trying to find it on video but it wasn’t out yet. People kept mentioning it, and after it came out pretty much straight to video (it played in 5 theaters apparently) a couple people e-mailed me and recommended it.
I felt bad though because here these people are trying to be nice and recommend this movie they think I will like, and I hated the fuckin thing. Maybe there was one or two clever sequences, I can’t remember much, but my main impression was that it was another corny showoff movie with no heart or soul, just a bunch of unconvincing tough guy bullshit and show-offy camera moves. Looks like the general consensus was it was a Tarantino wannabe but I remember I was definitely leaning toward Guy Ritchie. More of that hollow and forced nonsense that wafted off the ass of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS during its short window of popularity.
I remember one of the actors from the movie turned up in BLADE II but otherwise I pretty much forgot about it. Until I heard about this documentary here, OVERNIGHT, which is about the phenomenal asshole writer-director of BOONDOCK SAINTS and his hilarious, richly deserved plummet from overnight success to laughing stock.
I’m not saying he deserved it just because I didn’t like his movie. Usually I would figure hey, the movie sucked but he could be a nice guy. But no matter how edited or out of context any of this documentary could possibly be, there is no getting around the fact that this guy is one of the biggest, most pompous jackass dickheads you have ever seen on film. A truly, undeniably horrible person that you would never, ever want to be around, unless it was for the same kind of masochistic, voyeuristic pleasure you get from watching this movie. The guy is so full of himself it’s surprising that he’s not down there sucking his own dick the whole time.
The funny thing is it’s not a gradual decline, the story of how money and Hollywood gradually destroys a man’s soul. No, it’s more like the most toxic, horrible person you’ve ever met happens to be that one in a million that gets a shot at being Hollywood’s new wonder boy. But karmically, cathartically, entertainingly, for the first time in memory, outside of fictional movies, the guy who really deserves it is the one who really gets it bad. This fucker gets his balls crushed and fed to him through a straw.
I never heard of him before but it turns out this Troy Duffy prick was a Big Deal at one time in 1997. He was working as a bartender and he wrote the Boonies script about some Edgy Young Hitmen killing people in the name of catholicism. Some important people thought the script was real good, including Harvey Weinstein, who made a show of coming to the bar where Duffy worked to negotiate a deal with him. He would get $300,000 for the script but he’d also get to direct the movie (with final cut and all that crap) and Weinstein would help him buy the bar. AND his band “The Brood” would get to do the soundtrack. So he thinks he’s the new Orson Welles and a rock god.
He’s on the cover of USA Today and Hollywood Reporter and everything, one of those inspirational Hollywood human interest stories about the Regular Guy Who Through His Unique Genius Hit It Big Overnight (or “Hollywood’s New Hard-On” as he calls himself). And you see in the movie all these poor sucker actors believed the hype and started meeting him in the bar and at barbecues to talk about being in the movie (you see Pat Swayze, Mark Wahlberg, even John Goodman). And already this guy thinks he’s the fuckin cock’s walk. You gotta see the way this guy struts around and smokes his cigarettes and acts like these celebrities are lucky as shit to be hanging out with him.
This is one of those documentaries that almost seems like a Spinal Tap type fake, the guy is so ridiculous. If you enjoy the freak show type of documentary like I do, this is a damn good one. Almost every scene will make you either cringe, squirm or wince. Right at the beginning, he’s going home to visit his family and he’s laying it on real thick to them already about what hot shit he is, even talking shit to his mom about his own brother (who is in the band with him). He says, “I have created all the opportunities for this band, I have sweat and bled and… and… and died for this.”
He sets up a production office and takes conference calls and it is clear that he not only believes his own hype but believes that it is a huge understatement. There are some hilarious clips of him shit talking on the phone, self righteously saying things like, “I hate Kee-no Reeves I think he’s a fuckin punk I will never do a movie with him.” Which it turns out he was right about that last part at least.
Then he starts thinking Weinstein isn’t paying enough attention to him, starts leaving macho drunken rants and threats on the most powerful voicemail in Hollywood. Maybe hearing that description you might think this guy is cool, he’s a rebel, he doesn’t give a shit. But that’s not it at all. He does give a shit… he wants Big Time Hollywood Success more than anything. The only problem is, he is convinced that he already has it. It’s a done deal. He says he’s set for two decades. He thinks that Weinstein needs him because his script is so god damn great. He starts to make big corny speeches like the melodramatic criminals would say in his scripts: “I’m just a fuckin poor kid from Boston never had a fuckin thing in my whole life and you were the first man to come up and take a vested interest in me and say, ‘This kid’s comin with me.’ And you’re a mentor of mine and I really appreciate it and I just wanted to get that off my chest… Nuff said.”
The movie doesn’t have Weinstein’s side (the only time you see him is walking around like a doofus eating frozen yogurt in Cannes) but you get a pretty fuckin good hunch why he decided maybe he didn’t want to make this stupid movie anymore. Or same thing with Maverick Records, Madonna’s record company, who sign the band to a record contract but later stop allowing Duffy inside the building.
All the sudden Duffy is calling meetings with his band making tough guy speeches like he’s Scarface or the fuckin godfather:
“I’m not afraid of this. Maverick Records doesn’t scare me on this. As a matter of fact, we are scaring them shitless right now. They’re the ones having little emergency meetings, and not letting me in the front door of Maverick. They’re the ones calling up our lawyers feverishly trying to schedule somethin with me. They’re on the fuckin run right now. Not us. Because they know that we’re gonna be successful. And they know that on that day that we are successful they’re gonna say ‘Well we heard you had a fuckin record deal with Maverick Records.’ We’ll say, ‘Yeah. They backed out and got cold feet the last second.’ And that’s what these motherfuckers are more afraid of than anything in the entire world.”
(The movie later tells us that when their album finally came out on Atlantic Records, it only sold 690 copies in six months. It doesn’t say whether or not on that day they had a conversation with somebody about how Maverick Records got cold feet and backed out.)
You gotta feel sorry for almost everybody else in this movie. You see them wincing and trying to say something as he has yelling hissy fits at people over the phone. They want to make this movie and this album so it is important to them to get along with him and put up with his shit. But basically, he’s their asshole friend who they could stand when they worked at the bar with him but now that he thinks he’s God, every day is torture. He tells them at the beginning that they are his brothers who he will conquer the world with, then he turns around and treats them like peons and tells them they owe him everything. And they don’t want to miss the opportunity and if everybody says he’s so brilliant he must be so they hang on.
The movie leaves his bandmates mostly as blanks. Alot of the time they (especially his brother) look like they’re pissed at the way he’s talking, but are afraid to say anything because he’s the one that got them these opportunities (as he reminds them constantly). But then, especially when they get an advance from the record company, they seem to go along with his bullshit.
After they get the real record deal, he refuses to pay the two managers of the band, saying they don’t deserve it. He doesn’t care that these two guys are also the ones filming this documentary about him that became Overnight. Probaly not the smartest move anybody ever made.
But the most powerful scene is probaly the one where his brother finally gets up the nerve to unleash all his feelings. He makes an impassioned speech about how much Troy is neglecting the band and how important the band is to all of them and how much they need him. The guy never seems to stand up to his brother, and it’s finally gotten bad enough that he has to let it all out, and he’s even crying. After sitting and listening and given the chance to think about it and figure how to smooth things over, Duffy instead yells at his brother, tells him he’s full of shit and to fuck off.
(next scene, they’re all taking band photos together.)
This is a movie with a sense of justice, because Duffy being an asshole gets him dumped by both Miramax and Maverick. When he makes the movie with someone else it is barely released and he can’t get another job, when he makes the album with someone else it barely sells and he gets dropped from the label. When the movie does well on video he doesn’t get a cut of it, he’s spent all the money he got, and the bar he used to work at gets torn down. Shit, even this documentary about him, I tried to see it in a theater but it played less than a week. BLADE III came out on a Wednesday and replaced it. So even at getting negative attetion, the guy is a failure.
Because the filmatists were so involved in what was going on, most of the footage is more home movie than documentary. So sometimes it’s not entirely clear what is going on or what somebody is saying. Some of the score is a little over the top (dramatic keyboard tones to emphasize that something bad is going on) and there’s a quote at the end that uneccessarily explains the whole theme that “success” doesn’t necessarily change somebody as much as bring out the true ugly self that was always there. This definitely leans toward what I call the category 2 of documentaries, where it is not so much a great documentary movie as it is a movie document of a great subject.
But on the other hand they put this stuff together real well and they were the ones that had the foresight and the intestinal fortitude to be abused by this egomaniacal asswipe for four years while they gathered the footage. What they have created is a horrifying document of everybody’s worst nightmare of what they might do if all their dreams were suddenly handed to them on a platter out of the blue.
Now don’t worry, there is almost a 100% chance that if you woke up tomorrow as the New Prince of Hollywood, you would not make as much of a horrible jackass of yourself as Troy Duffy did. Even if you tried, it would be nearly impossible. Even if you are a total prick.
But it still works as a cautionary tale. Because you don’t want to be this guy even in some small way. If you’re reading this you’re probaly some kind of “film geek” or other and if you’re that, then you probaly have some secret fantasy of how you would make a movie if you had the chance. I can admit it, I know if somebody said hey Vern, Hollywood calling to inform you you’re writing On Deadly Ground 2, then I would thank the Lord one hundred times, get out a map of Alaska and start typing. And I bet there are alot of you out there who are actively pursuing that dream, writing scripts, going to film school, reading books about how to get your script read, maybe even getting desperate for it, trying to make connections, thinking about moving to L.A., wanting it so bad you can taste it, or maybe you just threw up a little bit in your mouth, you’re not really sure because you were up so late working on that seventh draft, you’re tired and confused now.
Sometimes I worry that I smell some of that desperation on some of my colleagues actually, some of these people with the movie web sights. They have a great thing going with their sights but if they had to they would throw it all away to make a real movie that would project on a screen in a real multiplex. Any movie nerd is gonna love meeting all these actors and directors and everybody, but what if you meet these people and instead of thinking “Oh shit, you were in Roadhouse” or whatever, you’re thinking must get big break… must pass die-hard-in-a-mall-with-killer-bees script. You just gotta hope you won’t catch Script Madness and lose all perspective. Like that guy from chud.com, he used to talk so much shit about the directors he thought were hacks, now all the sudden he has to rationalize fuckin Jan de Bont because he’s producing a giant shark movie the guy is gonna direct. “He worked on Die Hard 17 years ago, he definitely could be great again I think.”
Not that I blame anybody for this, it is an essential human weakness and we all have that potential. If you become the Hot Screenwriter that means you get a bunch of money, it means you get to express yourself creatively (you hope), it means you get to say you made a movie. You get to hang the movie poster on your wall. You get to meet Bruce Willis or somebody, maybe. Or at least Willem Dafoe. You get to go to your 20 year high school reunion and tell a funny story about the time you and Method Man got lit with Danny DeVito. You get to have an entry on IMDb, maybe even an impressive one. You get to quit that shitty job and your parents and your home town and everybody has to think you’re cool because you Made It in Hollywood. And you get to do a remake of War of the Gargantuas emphasizing the Cain and Abel relationship of the two gargantuas. Or Die Hard 4. Or whatever it is you dream about.
For most of us it’s a pipe dream but damn is it a beautiful, shiny, pipe dream. And we might find us lowering our standards of integrity when it comes down to it. Hey man I got a chance to write Bringing Down the House 2: Back 2 tha Hood. Hey man that’s not so bad, the first one made alot of money. And Steven Martin has done some wonderful work. I think I could bring my unique voice to this one. This could be Steve Martin’s return to form. This is the big one, this is gonna get me places.
We’d like to think we would never lower ourselves to that, but the Hollywood Career is a juicy bunch of grapes hanging up there lookin delicious, and it’s hard not to find ourselves unconsciously licking our lips. So if we’d be tempted by that then who knows what would happen in this case, where we write our own script and they throw us the keys to the kingdom. If you think there’s some chance of it happening then it is a temptation for you. And it can make you act crazy. This could be us, and we fuckin know it. We fear it, if we know what’s good for us.
And if we don’t fear it, and we happen to have a heart made out of used charcoal briquettes and an ego that could eclipse all the water from all the oceans and polar ice caps, we could become Troy Duffy. He is the flash in the pan boogie man, and this is his story.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.