Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Overnight
USA 2004 : Mark Brian SMITH and Tony MONTANA : 81 mins
Savage documentary gleefully charting the rise and fall of obnoxious Troy Duffy, the writer-director of The Boondock Saints. Never heard of The Boondock Saints or Troy Duffy? That’s not surprising, considering how the movie obtained only the tiniest of theatrical releases in the USA before heading to a marginally less low-profile afterlife on video and DVD. Duffy himself made more of a splash back in 1997 when Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein offered him a million-dollar deal to make the movie. In addition, Weinstein offered to buy Boston native Duffy the Los Angeles pub J Sloan’s where he was then working as a barman.
It all seemed too good to be true – and of course it was. The story of how Duffy’s deal fell apart is chronicled by his former pals Smith and Montana, members of his close inner-circle until everything started to go pear-shaped. Eventually Duffy and Overnight‘s directing duo parted company after a messy argument over money. By this stage, however, Smith and Montana had more than enough footage to perform a right royal stitch-up on their one-time friend. Duffy is so unsympathetic, however, that many viewers will reckon he deserves to be done up “like a kipper” – as they don’t say in Los Angeles. And for this to be done in a film which is getting much more acclaim than his little-seen movie is a pleasing combination of poetic justice and cold-served revenge.
Utterly convinced of his own genius in the fields of writing, directing and moviemaking, Duffy takes the Weinstein deal as an utter vindication of his sledgehammer arrogance. Revelling in his status as “Hollywood’s new hard-on” he proceeds to shit on almost everyone he has any dealings with – including his long-suffering brother Taylor. Even those he doesn’t have any dealings with receive the full-on Duffy treatment – “Ethan Hawke is a talentless fool,” he blusters at one point, careering into Spinal Tap territory as he brags about his “logpile of creativity… a deep cesspool of creativity.”
Duffy’s egocentric rantings are undeniably amusing up to a point – Smith and Montana basically allow this blowhard more than enough celluloid to hang himself. But we do get the message very early on – and this showbiz rags-riches-rags arc is a very familiar one (cf Boogie Nights, on which Smith did some post-production work). After the on-screen ‘sacking’ of Smith and Montana by Duffy – one of his innumerable unwise moves – Overnight effectively becomes a tool for the settling of personal scores. We never actually find out what went wrong with the Miramax deal, and Duffy himself is made to look so terrible so often you may find yourself, against all better judgement, feeling a little sorry for the big lug.
He isn’t talentless by any means – Boondock Saints is a watchable post-Tarantino thriller, with more touches of genuine originality and ambition than the rather conventionally-filmed and structured Overnight – and although his energy was misguided, it was his barrellingly untrammelled confidence that led to Smith and Montana getting their big Hollywood break. They’ve clearly ended up in a much better position than their subject/victim, who’s briefly glimpsed in longshot at the end standing outside a Sloan’s-type Hollywood bar – though we aren’t told whether he’s there as a customer, barman or bouncer, one of the film’s numerous frustrating information gaps.
Duffy doesn’t deserve our sympathy by any means – but Overnight, for all its entertaining moments, is essentially just the so-what-ish downfall of a louse: the kicking a man when he’s down followed by the gratuitous twisting of the knife. It leaves a slightly nasty taste in the mouth – the credit-roll is accompanied by footage showing the ultimate fate of Sloan’s (which looked a decent enough little boozer), rounding things off on a thoroughly downbeat and depressing note.
14th September, 2004
(seen 20th August : Cameo Edinburgh : press show – Edinburgh Film Festival)
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by Neil Young