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| 25 February 2021 | Reply

Written by Chris & Eddie Borey, Joe Carnahan
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Starring Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Frank Grillo oozes charisma and cool as retired special forces officer Roy Pulver in this assassin-Groundhog Day action-fest.

Waking up each day on the exact same day to the same cavalcade of murderers attempting to end him, Pulver is a charmer despite being stuck in a seemingly eternal loop of evading one assassin after another before dying violently in one way or another.

The film opens on Pulver’s 140th -ish attempt to make it through the day he is stuck in – the LEVEL he is stuck on, you might very well say because Boss Level is framed like a video game. (The ‘Boss Level’ in video game parlance is the ultimate level of the game)

So as our riveting hero drinks too much, pines for his ex, Jemma (played by an earnest Naomi Watts) and their son (who, incidentally, doesn’t know that Pulver is Daddy – intolerably rude and abusive, Jemma), he has evading his attackers down to a fine art, right to a matter of seconds in some instances.

More often seen in supporting roles, Grillo was born to play this part, and has been attached to the property for almost a decade – even after one studio cancelled their development of the film because they couldn’t see him as the star. All things in their own time.

In fact, Grillo is something of a revelation here. Able to nail the action scenes effortlessly whilst showing off his uber-gym-junkie bod is one thing, but he perfectly pitches a sense of naiveté, charm and regret, rueing not spending time with his eleven-year-old son and still in love with his ex. It’s this fragility which gives the movie it’s heart, avoiding it from becoming a one dimensional shoot-‘em-up like so many others.

Mel Gibson has clawed back a decent Hollywood position after his 2006 scandals, and has adapted to playing either gruff outcasts with a heart of gold, or maliciously suave bad guys as the price of his redemption. It’s the latter option he brings to the table as power-hungry military scientist – and Jemma’s boss – Ventor. Jemma is working on something called The Osiris Spindle, which manipulates time loops or something like that. It’s a tool to facilitate the Groundhog Day-like loop Pulver is trapped in, and that’s all we really need to understand.

Elsewhere, Ken Yeong and Michelle Yeoh are both under-utilised in what feels like prominent roles that mostly ended up on the cutting room floor. The former is the barman at a place Roy visits every morning, the latter a martial artist who mentors him through enough looped death days to make him an expert swordsman.

Boss Level is a little bit video game, a little bit sci fi, and a whole lot of action and violence tempered with charm, heart and plenty of light-hearted moments. Co-writer and director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, Narc, The A-Team, The Grey) has perfectly pitched his film with the right blend of serious and comedy, and given us a hero who – superhero body aside – we can all relate to a little.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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