Frank Grillo blasts through plot and logic in this gonzo action movie
By Diana Beechener
Roy (Frank Grillo: Billions) is stuck in a rut. Every morning a man breaks into his apartment and tries to lodge a machete in his face. The first few times, Roy’s freaked out, but by the 100th time, it’s getting a little old.
Unfortunately for Roy, he’s trapped in some sort of time loop. So far, he’s relived the same day over and over again, repeating it every time he dies. He’s never made it past 12:50pm. If Machete Guy doesn’t get him, the helicopter with the Gatling gun does. If he somehow misses both of those, and the women with the grenade launcher…there’s always the bomb expert or the dude with a spear bolted to his pickup truck.
He’s become a connoisseur of death. He knows what hurts most when it comes to dying and the best ways to get the job done if he wants a restart.
Roy has a vague notion as to why this might be happening. His ex, Jemma (Naomi Watts: The Loudest Voice), is a scientist working on a top secret project. Could Jemma be the key to ending this violent loop? Or is Roy simply going to have to kill his way out of it.
A movie best described as “Groundhog Day, if the groundhog kept trying to kill Bill Murray,” Boss Level is a ton of fun for those who like big, dumb action romps. From the Commando school of “plots are for losers”, Boss Level isn’t really about the story. Boss Level is an extended action sequence with occasional dialogue. There’s an overly complex plot featuring a MacGuffin that is barely explained. This isn’t a movie for people who want logic or nuanced detail, this is a movie for people who like one-liners and bombastic explosions.
Director Joe Carnahan (State of Affairs) is an old hand at mindless action. He’s the perfect man to give Boss Level a sense of testosterone-fueled comedy and action. He creates (as the title implies) a video game-like universe for Roy to inhabit. By doing this, Carnahan eliminates any real sense of danger, but also amps up the fun. When you know Roy can’t really die, all the violence becomes cartoonish and goofy.
As the center of the movie and the time loop, Grillo does a great job. He’s got the smirk, the oiled pecs, and one-liner timing of any good action hero. His Roy is a gruff man who deeply regrets losing his ex and not having a relationship with his child. The few tender moments Boss Level allows itself revolve around Roy using a few of his lives to really get to know his son.
Though Grillo does his best to keep the momentum going, there are some drawbacks. The Big Bad is played by Mel Gibson (Fatman), who is apparently trying to launch his Hollywood comeback with barely interesting performances. It’s a shame that Grillo’s nemesis has none of his energy for the material.
Most unforgivable, however, is Boss Level’s complete misuse of action legend Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery). Barely in the movie at all, she’s wasted on a thankless training montage. It’s a shame, since she has chemistry with Grillo, that Carnahan couldn’t think of a better storyline for her.
The other issue is the script, which offers dated jokes and poorly timed punchlines. Also, much like a video game, every new area Roy enters features at least one helpful person who gives us paragraphs of exposition to keep the story going. It’s a tedious trope, but one that you can’t get too mad at since it efficiently moves the audience from bloodbath to bloodbath.
If you’re a fan of ‘80s and ‘90s action movies, Boss Level will keep you laughing, in spite of its flaws. It’s the sort of mindless flick that would have played well as a summer release. So make yourself a big tub of popcorn, settle in with a few people (if you can safely) and get ready to cheer and heckle this ridiculous, fun movie.
Boss Level is available to watch on Hulu.
Fun Action * PG-13 * 94 mins.