Dirs: Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith, 2003. Documentary.

The tough-minded vision of a master filmmaker fighting the odds to bring his vision to the screen has made for some truly memorable documentaries over the years. The almost mad mavericks Francis Ford Coppola directing Apocalypse Now in Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse and Werner Herzog’s epic struggle to make Fitzcarraldo in Burden Of Dreams - the documentaries are almost as good as the films themselves. Another interesting film is Lost In La Mancha which chronicles Terry Gilliam's attempt to get the unbearable looking The Man Who Killed Don Quixote started and completed, the latter never happened. These are three men devoted to filmmaking with grand goals. The documentary Overnight is about another filmmaker, Troy Duffy, trying to get his first film, The Boondock Saints, made. Unfortunately for this maniacal egomaniac his visions are mostly about himself and how cool his sunglasses are.

Back in the '90s Harvey Weinstein and his film company, Miramax Pictures, were riding a wave of good fortune and good will after making an overnight sensation out of a video store clerk turned happening director/screenwriter, Quentin Tarantino. Suddenly everybody had a script ready to go and were ready to be discovered by Weinstein. Unfortunately, it also made Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction two of the most imitated films of their day. Hip dudes spewing cool dialog and then nonchalantly taking part in extreme violence and gunplay. (Does anyone want to sit through Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Very Bad Things, Love & A .45, The Salton Sea or 2 Days In The Valley again?) One of the worst Tarantino clones was The Boondock Saints. Overnight is the story of how The Boondock Saints' production was hot, then cold, and then barely got made.

When the film starts Duffy had just gotten Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith to shoot a video about him, to document his amazing overnight success. The footage from this vanity project ended up becoming this feature documentary. Duffy had just signed with the William Morris Agency and inked a deal with Miramax for $300,000 to direct his script with a $15 million budget. This was a lot for a guy who was just bartending on Melrose days earlier and had never directed a thing before. Oh, his horrible grunge band (which also included his brother) scored a recording deal too. And just to make the legend complete, it was reported that part of the deal said that Weinstein would buy the bar (J. Sloan's) and he and Duffy would co-own it. Might all this hype go to his head?

Overnight is an amazing chronicle of a downfall. Duffy might have been a jerk from the beginning, but he had a shot to make his crappy script with a big budget and he blew it. And watching him blow it is a squirmy experience. After much press fanfare for his seemingly rags to riches story, it’s clear that he’s actually a really unlikable alpha-male wanna-be. The guy is such an egomaniac; he compares himself to a young Orson Welles (if Welles also had a rockin’ band), throws tantrums at his bandmates and his agents. As Weinstein gets cold feet Duffy yells at him and his subordinates (over the phone) and threatens them. He alienates everyone around him, he constantly gets drunk out of his mind, and makes a total ass of himself and, worse, he wears dark black sunglasses --- at night!

Eventually Weinstein and Miramax come to their senses and totally disown Duffy, put the film in "turnaround" and his recording contract is also canceled. He becomes even more abusive to everyone around him. Though they clearly can’t stand him, his bandmates are still dreaming that he will lead them to the mountaintop. But later, with different producers and at a fraction of the budget, he does eventually get his Citizen Kane made. At any budget, his film, The Boondock Saints, is still a total bore with lots of gunfire and some Irish-American Catholic angst attached to it. Ironically it didn’t make a ripple when it was mildly released, though it has become a sort of cult film on DVD with the frat boy action crowd who have never heard of The Wild Bunch. Unfortunately for Duffy though his high-powered William Morris agents didn’t get him any share of the DVD profits with his deal. (Karma?)

By the end of Overnight Duffy has totally melted down and even thinks someone is trying to kill him. The guy is a real mess. Unfortunately there is no moral to the story because, somehow, ten years later he managed to get a straight to DVD (more or less) sequel made, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Perhaps now Duffy is in his own Welles "late period" - when Welles, though still a visionary and a maverick, was forced to take crumbs to get any film made. Or maybe Duffy is back to slinging drinks. Either way Overnight is a fascinating portrait of non-talent created by hype and then demolished by self-delusion.

Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Aug 4, 2010 11:40am
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