By: John M Jerva
Neil McDonough returns as the hitman with a conscience in the sequel to 2021’s Red Stone. This time around, the sequel is simply called Boon which is McDonough’s character’s name and with the simpler title, we have a sequel that ups the action and tension in every way from the original. The first film was a slow paced, slow burn thriller that was salvaged due to McDonough’s involvement and the versatile actor elevated what could have been a mediocre affair with just his screen presence. McDonough has created a character that is somewhat complex and isn’t your everyday, garden variety anti-hero like we get in most cases.
Even though Boon is a follow up to Red Stone, it is important to note that this film stands on its own and if you haven’t seen the first film, you will still be able to follow what is going on. Watching the first film does help though as it will flesh out McDonough’s character and fill in some of the gaps.
McDonough gives one of his best performances here as a very dangerous man who wants to leave his violent world behind and live out the rest of his days in peace. As plot goes, there is nothing new here, but it still works as the cast is all in from the opening minutes with McDonough proving once again that he is one of the best character actors working in the industry today. As Boon, McDonough channels a little bit of Charles Bronson here as this would be the kind of role the late, great legend would have starred in if this movie was made in the 70’s or 80’s.
The first entry ended ambiguously with Boon being mortally wounded after his violent altercation with crime boss Jed (Michael Cudlitz) and if another movie wasn’t made then the audience would have had to question whether he lived or died. Boon did survive however and is now trying to live a quiet life in the Pacific Northwest as he tries to atone for his past sins. That peaceful existence is shattered though as he is severely injured after a confrontation and is rescued by widowed Preacher Catherine (Christiane Seidel), who lives next to Boon with her teenage son Elijah (Jake Melrose).
Once Boon recovers, he quickly realizes that Catherine is at the mercy of, yet another local crime boss named Mr. Fitzgerald (Tommy Flanagan) who is using her to build a tunnel under land to transport illegal goods. To make matters worse, Fitzgerald has an even more ruthless right-hand man, or should I say woman, in his daughter-in-law Emilia (Christina Ochoa) who isn’t beyond taking out anyone who gets in their way. Throw in an FBI agent (Demetrius Grosse) hot on his trail and Boon has some serious issues to contend with before he starts to live that quiet life he so desperately wants. With all this at play, Boon refuses to turn a blind eye to Catherine and her son and sets out to protect them at all costs. Violence, of course, ensues and Boon lays it all on the line to do what is right and take down what is wrong.
Boon is a far cry from the first film as that one was made in the heat and sun of the South and here, we have a stark contrast with the cold, wintery elements of the Pacific Northwest. It helps to make this movie its own and there is some nice and serene cinematography throughout as we get many shots of that beautiful part of the country. It’s the perfect location for the sequel as it is realistic to the sense that this is a place someone with a shadowy history would want to hide out in as one could virtually disappear here.
Both Red Stone and Boon have a Western tinge to them with McDonough playing the mysterious gunslinger and McDonough’s real-life faith and religion plays an important part in shaping Boon and this helps the audience become invested in him as it gives him a great number of layers. Think of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, as the silent avenger who is living in the wrong era. I feel that Boon is the type of person who would have flourished in the untamed West, and he even wears his trademark hat thus solidifying this argument. It also helps that McDonough is sensational in almost anything he does, and this was evident in the new Resident Evil movie that came out recently. McDonough had a smaller role there, but he elevated a very mediocre film with his screentime. With Boon, McDonough is front and center once again and it is his shoulders that carry this film from being something very forgettable.
On villain duties as Mr. Fitzgerlad is Tommy Flanagan who is tailor made for this kind of role and here, he is a quiet and reserved evil. Flanagan’s Scottish accent punctuates his performance per usual and even though he is a very bad man, he still plays things smart and is a suitable opponent for Boon.
Even nastier is Christina Ochoa playing Fitzgerlad’s cold and calculating daughter-in-law Emilia. Even though Fitzgerlad is the head of the organization, it is Emilia that emerges as the real threat and gives Boon all he can handle leading up to the inevitable confrontation. Ochoa is clearly having a blast here playing such a hateful character and she is proof positive that evil comes in all kinds of forms.
Demetrius Grosse, who I enjoyed in the short-lived military series The Brave, does what he can with what he is given. I feel that his character could have been fleshed out a little more and Grosse is a solid enough supporting player that it’s a shame that he didn’t get more to do this time around. He does get to showcase a little action at the end and setting aside his differences with Boon and fighting alongside him was a nice way to go.
The pacing of Boon is similar to Red Stone as not much action is present in the first two/thirds of the movie. Unlike the first installment and even though there are the same pacing issues that plagued the original, Boon interacts with a lot more interesting characters here and even though it takes a while to get going once again, viewers have more to focus on here which helps making it through until the carnage starts. There are a few, brief episodes of violence throughout and the climax is more satisfying for this sophomore effort.
The finale is leagues above what we got in Red Stone with all that has transpired culminating into a fierce firefight between Boon and Emilia who has assembled a kill group of cronies. There’s a lot more ammo spent here, and we get some pretty solid kills before all is said and done. The choreography of the battle doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is serviceable and entertains on a violent level. The one major drawback is that the lower budget shows its ugly head as there is very noticeable subpar CGI muzzle flashes and blood spray. Even though they could have done better in that regard, the finale is still satisfying and ups the ferocity from the original.
I just want to say that if you though John Wick was a bad ass with a fucking pencil, then you need to see what Boon does with a spoon. That part made me laugh but in a good way as you don’t see it coming and it’s one of Boon’s finer and more satisfyingly violent moments to savor.
One question I will ask is why does Jason Scott Lee, who we all remember from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and is severely underrated, only show up for a brief scene at the beginning. His character feels like a missed opportunity as he tries to take out Boon at the beginning but gets gunned down with ease. I know it’s supposed to show Boon in his element but I would have preferred him to stick around a little longer as he is one of my favorite actors who never gets enough love.
While we’re talking about negatives, another noticeable drawback is the fact that Boon is supposed to be a bad ass, elite assassin but with that in mind, he sure does get injured a lot. This is probably to show the fact that even though he’s good, things do happen, but I would have preferred to see him be a little more indestructible. I’m sure they were going for a more realistic tone here, but Boon does suffer a great deal of damage to his body. He does keep on ticking though so there is that.
Overall and with my nitpicking aside, Boon is still quite the serviceable time waster and mostly due to the fact that McDonough is such a presence onscreen. There’s more happening here, more action, and more characters to flesh out the running time. Assassin movies are a dime a dozen nowadays but as long as they are gripping and layered, then they are still watchable. Boon is far more explosive and with a more satisfying finale, I am eagerly awaiting a third installment of McDonough’s hitman with a conscience. With this franchise, each entry gets a little better and hopefully with a bigger budget next time, Boon will take out the trash once again with more gusto. This movie succeeds due to McDonough and the rest of the cast and even though we’ve seen it before, I won’t mind seeing Boon return.