The definition of just what makes a cult hit has changed in the ten years since Troy Duffy made "The Boondock Saints". The ubiquity of the Internet and the coming-of-age of a generation weaned on the copious amount of very specific information it offers has given almost every piece of media, film or other, its very own cult following.
By information, I mean easier access and smaller audiences. When you say a movie earned itself a cult following by "word of mouth" in 2009, you're typically saying that it fostered early hype thanks to a small but vocal online community, further cultivated through viral marketing. "The Boondock Saints" was the real deal, one of the very last cult movies to find its audience through literal word of mouth.
Throughout 2000 and 2001, college kids and action movie nerds traded this movie around like a secret handshake, something cool shared by those in the know. Its notoriety was enhanced by its scarcity; the movie was literally owned by Blockbuster in 2000, but even if you wanted to rent it, it wasn't easy to find a Blockbuster store that actually carried it. There was a DVD release sold in Canada, but even that was rare.
The movie itself, its subject matter, cast and tone, also made it perfect cult fodder. Over the top violence, offbeat stars like Billy Connolly and Willem Dafoe, a bizarre cameo of Gerard Parks playing a bartender suffering from severe Tourette Syndrome; "Boondock Saints" was a veritable potpourri of pop detritus whose disparate parts conspired to make it just memorable enough to spread.
The "Boondock" cult is really the only reason "Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" is coming out this week. Creator Troy Duffy has actually been trying to get the movie made since shortly after the original was finished, and had planned on releasing it in September 2005. Thanks to the legal quagmire surrounding the ownership of "Boondock" and a lack of funding, that date came and went. It took "Boondock" getting properly re-released on home video in 2006 and two years of slow, steady sales to finally convince Sony Pictures to fund the new film and bring the original cast back together.
For any aspiring directors out there, the lesson to take away about "Boondock Saints" is that it takes close to a decade for a proper cult to form around your creation. It takes more than a fan wiki and a handful of community pages online. You've got to have your work literally passed around a slowly percolating group of fans who love what you've made. By rights, "Boondock Saints II" should never have been made. Yet here it is.