The idea of a “hitman with a heart” is a movie trope that’s been done on countless occasions. Whether it be a futuristic sci-fi adventure like Looper or a neo-noir action thriller like John Wick, hitmen contemplating the duality of man and grappling with their past lives is a successful storyline when done right. Boon is the latest addition to the genre with mixed results.
Directed by Derek Presley (Whitetail), Boon stars Neal McDonough as Nick Boon, a mercenary with a ruthless past working for a crime syndicate. This movie marks McDonough’s second appearance as the titular character following his first outing in 2021’s Red Stone.
On the run from hired killers and a curious federal agent, Boon hides out in the Pacific Northwest, where he eventually meets a widowed pastor, Catherine, played by Christiane Seidel (The Queen’s Gambit), and her teenage son. Catherine is at the mercy of the local criminal kingpin, Mr. Fitzgerald, played by Sons of Anarchy alum Tommy Flanagan, who runs his illegal enterprises on her land. When Catherine and her son run afoul of Fitzgerald and his hired hands, Boon must decide whether to stay quiet or interfere and risk repercussions from the intimidating and violent crime boss.
The neo-western film immediately establishes Boon as a highly-skilled and intelligent gunman as he goes toe-to-toe with an assassin following a highway confrontation. McDonough, who also serves as a co-writer and producer, is no stranger to playing the bad guy, as the veteran character actor has been the villain on shows like Yellowstone, Arrow, and Justified. This time around, McDonough plays a complicated antihero, who despite being a religious man, tries to justify his violent actions when protecting a mother and her young son.
Furthermore, Boon is more interested in staging action sequences than developing and fleshing out the rest of its supporting characters, especially its main villain. On one hand, Fitzgerald is set up to be a powerful antagonist who strikes fear into the hearts of the town’s residents. However, his character is all based on reputation and a few nefarious speeches. Not once does he try to inflict physical violence on someone himself, let alone pick up a gun. Suspending disbelief isn’t an option when details like these are missing throughout the script.
For a 95-minute action movie, the pacing is very lethargic, especially after the opening firefight. The driving force behind Boon’s decision to stay in town is to protect Catherine and her son. Yet Catherine withholds the reason why she obeys Fitzgerald and his daughter-in-law, Emilia (Christina Ochoa of Animal Kingdom), for over half of the film. When she finally tells Boon the truth about her past, the reveal is quite underwhelming because of how long it took to get there.
Eventually, the film reaches its inevitable showdown between Boon and Fitzgerald. Strangely, Fitzgerald isn’t even present for this climactic moment, which is a befuddling decision in itself. In addition, the forced storyline with the FBI agent, played by Demetrius Grosse, becomes an integral plot point despite spending little time with the character throughout the film.
The true villain of the film, Emilia, and her henchmen make their way to Catherine’s property for an action-packed shootout in the third act. The ending is predictable, and the final moments elect to set up a future adventure for Boon rather than end definitively. A mid-credits scene tries to tie up a loose end, but it’s an unsatisfying payoff that deserves an entire scene instead of a 30-second clip.
Despite McDonough’s engagingly stoic performance and some decent fight scenes, Boon‘s issues of pacing and character development are too big to overcome to be truly entertaining even on a B-movie level.
Boon will release in theaters and on-demand and digital on April 1, 2022.