A retired Special Forces officer is trapped in a never-ending time loop on the day of his death.
Release Date: 2021 | Runtime: 1hr 34min | Genre: Sci-Fi Action | Source: Rental
Boss Level Review
Frank Grillo has deserved better for a long time. Occasionally he gets to shine in projects like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and a couple of The Purge movies. Mostly though, he seems relegated to low budget Bruce Willis movies where Willis earns more money than most us will ever see to stand on a film set for 3 hours and look bored. If it’s not that, then it’s other non-descript side characters. Boss Level finally gives him his moment to shine and he takes full advantage.
Boss Level has a simple pitch – “what if Groundhog Dog but an action movie?” When we first meet Roy (Grillo), he has already been stuck in a time loop for a long while. Each morning he wakes up to a guy trying to murder him with a machete and things only escalate from there. A whole team of assassins is determined to kill him and he has no idea why. The bulk of the mystery is Roy figuring out how to break the loop, why so many people seem to want him dead and how his wife (Naomi Watts) and her asshole boss (Mel Gibson) play into all this.
Time loop movies are like Spider-Man origin stories for me – at this point I don’t need to see how it all gets started. I appreciate that this movie just throws you in and we can skip past the early stages where Roy realizes he is trapped in the same day. It fits with what seems to be the movies key mantra – “GO! FUCKING GO GO GO GO!” Roy’s day starts with a knife fight and a car chase so you can imagine where things need to go to up the ante. Small criticism – there is a lot of unnecessary voiceover in the early stages. I would rather be thrown into the situation and figure things out from there rather than have the lead character go over exactly what we’re seeing unfold. The recent Palm Springs is a great example of a time loop movie that keeps you wondering for the first act. I could have gone for some of that same mystery here.
Grillo is great and he gets to do just about everything. When we first meet Roy he is tired and frustrated, simply going through the motions and accepting his inevitable death by getting as drunk as possible so he doesn’t feel it. His enthusiasm gradually builds as he begins to get a hold of the situation. Grillo gets to do his usual action stuff but also gets to be funny and do some dramatic work. I hope this is finally the movie that gets others to notice that hey, this guy should be in more things. Maybe let’s get action stars who can also act rather than trying to make it seem like a good actor can also do action!
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces who aren’t always used the best. Gibson is a pretty stock bad guy though I did like that this movie didn’t even pretend like he could go toe to toe with Grillo and come out even halfway decent. Watts is fine but doesn’t have much of a character to work with. Michelle Yeoh gets the best deal as a master swordsman who teaches Grillo to swordfight so he can defeat one of the assassins. The assassins unfortunately also don’t get a lot of time to shine. They are introduced with nicknames and gimmicks but we don’t see too much of most of them. The standout is easily Guan Yin (Sabrina Lo), who proclaims “I am Guan Yin, and Guan Yin has done this” every time she decapitates Roy (which is a whole lot of times to be clear).
For the most part, the events of Boss Level are light and frenetic, with a lot of humour coming from the various ways Roy gets taken down as he figures out how to survive. In the back half, a lot more focus is put on the relationship between Roy and his son (played by Frank Grillo’s actual son Rio) and this stretch of the movie didn’t work as well for me. It pivots the movie away from the fun and wild action comedy it has been up to that point into dramatic territory that feels sudden. The stakes of the situation were already very high so this doesn’t add quite the punch it needs. Though I do respect that Frank Grillo got to spend time with his son while filming a movie where his character is not spending enough time with his son.
Boss Level is another very good addition to the time loop…genre? Can we call it a genre at this point? It makes terrific use of its premise and it’s all held together by a great central performance from Grillo. If you type “damn good time” into Google this movie should come up. Instead it’s some Aaron Watson song and I guarantee you this is more fun than that. Get on it Google.
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