Boss Level, Joe Carnahan‘s first movie in six years, is a surprisingly fun action fueled stunt epic. Carnahan isn’t a stranger to big action spectacles, as he was also responsible for directing The A-Team. Frank Grillo (Kingdom) is here to lead the over-the-top and delightfully absurd time loop film without much trouble.
Former special forces agent Roy Pulver (Grillo) is stuck living the day of his murder over and over again. We join him on attempt 139 to uncover clues about a secret government project that could unlock the mystery behind his untimely death. Colonel Ventor (Mel Gibson – Dragged Across Concrete) is the evil behind all of this, but doesn’t make it very easy to get access to him, with a small army of his very own skilled assassins protecting him and the truth at all costs. Not only will Roy have to save his wife (Naomi Watts – The Loudest Voice), but also change up his routine to figure out how to get out of this apocalyptic science experiment.
Written by Carnahan, Eddie & Chris Borey (Open Grave), Boss Level does a banging job at making the familiar time loop experience entertaining from start to finish. Not all of it works, and we all know these types of films can get quite exhausting at a certain point, but it’s the absurdity and gory violence with a splash of humour and self awareness that gets Boss Level to the final boss it’s building towards. The slight variations in Roy’s routine make it fun for the viewer to discover new things, like playing a difficult level over and over again until you finally beat the game. But that’s often easier said than done. It doesn’t help that Grillo himself doesn’t have a lot of dialogue on screen. Most of the talking happens through narration which often pulls you out of the film. In this case, I believe the movie would’ve benefited from a Deadpool-esque breaking of the fourth wall, since the story really leans into that direction already.
The most impressive and jawdropping bits are the crazy fight choreography and stunts. It’s violent, explosively graphic and funny as hell. Some of the VFX (you can tell a lot of the acting happens in front of a green screen) isn’t on par with the quality of action packed scenes, but that’s easily forgiven when you get a sword fight between Roy and instant icon Guan-Yin (played by a masterful Selina Lo) whose catchphrase “I am Guan-Yin and Guan-Yin has done this” won’t leave your mind anytime soon. She has a way of entering a scene that just demands your attention and leaves you with your mouth wide open whenever she finishes her victim by beheading them.
It’s unfortunate to see other big names, such as Watts and Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery) on screen only briefly, whereas Gibson didn’t quite do it for me either as the nefarious cigar smoking Colonel. When a more emotional backstory involving Roy’s son enters the main plot, it’s a welcome surprise and definitely helps Grillo’s character to be more likable. Does it push the narrative towards a fulfilling finale? Not exactly, but after an hour of insane car chases, evading missiles shot out of a helicopter and other insane killing methods, the limit no longer exists.
Boss Level takes you on a thrill ride from the very first minute and you either give in to its absurd amount of action or you exit the scene. Take us to the next level!
IN AUSTRALIAN CINEMAS 25 FEBRUARY
Review – ‘Boss Level’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution), February 22, 2021. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 100 min.
PRODUCTION: (AUS) A Rialto Distribution release of a WarParty Films, Scott Free Productions, Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films), Big Red Films, Diamond Films Productions, Edver Films, Highland Film Group (HFG), Ingenious Media, Orca Entertainment Group, Paradox Film Group, River Bay Films, The Fyzz Facility production. Producers: Joe Carnahan, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Frank Grillo. Executive producers: Charles Auty, Alastair Burlingham, Chris Charalambous, Richard Clark Jr., Christelle Conan, Jules Daly, Mark DeVitre, Alex Eckert, Anders Erdén, Carolyn Folks, Ted Fox, Arianne Fraser, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Jonathan Helmuth, Brandon K. Hogan, Robert Jones, Jennifer Lucas, Delphine Perrier, Gary Raskin, Ceasar Richbow, Timothy C. Sullivan.
CREW: Director: Joe Carnahan. Screenplay: Chris Borey, Eddie Borey, Joe Carnahan. Cinematography: Juan Miguel Azpiroz. Editing: Kevin Hale. Music: Clinton Shorter.
CAST: Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Annabelle Wallis, Naomi Watts, Selina Lo, Michelle Yeoh, Meadow Williams, Ken Jeong, Will Sasso, Mathilde Ollivier.