Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A retired special forces officer is trapped in a never-ending time loop on the day of his death.
Review: I’ve been a Frank Grillo fan since his television days. He’s had recurring roles on shows like The Shield, Prison Break and Law and Order: SVU (just to name a few), and even if you don’t know him by name you probably remember seeing him in Captain America: Winter Soldier (he played the henchman Crossbones) and The Purge sequels Anarchy and Election Year. So when I saw the trailer for Boss Level I just had to give it a look-see. And boy am I happy I did as this was just the kind of fun action extravaganza I was hoping for!
This is the kind of popcorn flick that would’ve done pretty well in pre-Covid days. With its tongue-in-cheek sense of humour (there are a couple of jokes aimed squarely at Mel Gibson’s real-life shenanigans), excellent fight scenes, and well-shot action sequences, Boss Level manages to deliver on its silly Groundhog Day meets video games premise. Grillo is having the time of his life with this role as he gives one of his best performances to date here. His character Roy, like most other characters who you’ve seen in these types of stories, is a bit of a mess. He drinks too much, sleeps around, and is an absentee father to his son. But after his ex-wife Jemma (Naomi Watts of Penguin Bloom/King Kong) is murdered and he realises he’s trapped in a time loop created by a mysterious machine she was working on, Roy is forced to “play the game” and figure out how to put things right.
If you’re a fan of video games you just might appreciate Boss Level a bit more than non-gamers. Director Joe Carnahan is no stranger to over-the-top action, with his (underrated) movie Smokin’ Aces easily coming to mind while I watched this. Writers Chris and Eddie Borey (along with others) did a great job of incorporating the whole video game aesthetic to the story here, with Roy having to face multiple opponents, each with different “difficulty levels”, before he gets to Mel Gibson’s “final boss” Colonel Clive Ventor. It never felt forced, and as someone who has known the frustration of dying over and over again as you try to advance levels in video games, I found myself laughing aloud every time Roy died, respawned, and tried to figure out what the hell was going on.
Now you might notice I didn’t really say anything about Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts or the slew of other well-known actors (Michelle Yeoh, Annabelle Wallis, Ken Jeong, et cetera) who star in this film as well. That’s because we barely spend any time with them.
Sadly, these talented people only show up here and there, sprinkled throughout the movie like, well, like a real video game! For instance, Michelle Yeoh, (who I refuse to give background on because YOU BETTER KNOW WHO SHE IS!) shows up in only two scenes, one of which she shows Roy how to be a sword master. And that’s it. The same goes for most of the recognisable faces here. And maybe budget played a part in how little these actors really got to do, but it felt like a waste of talent.
Another bit of a stumble for me was the pacing. Boss Level is at its best when the focus is on the crazy action. When things slow down to add drama (and maybe a bit of unnecessary exposition) you feel the loss of energy. And while I actually enjoyed the moments between Roy and his son (both actors had a very natural chemistry which made the relationship feel real) it did affect the general entertainment of the story.
Overall though, Boss Level is definitely a high note in Grillo’s career, and a fun action movie that shows a genuine understanding and love for video games. It stumbles when it tries to be smarter than it needs to be, but delivers enough excitement to forgive those blunders. I recommend clicking play on this one.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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