Friday, March 05, 2021

Boss Level: Frank Grillo Tears It Up

Pretty soon there will be a movie about an actor who gets stuck in a time-loop while making a film about someone stuck in a time-loop, so we can’t be sure whether it is the time-loop or the script repeating itself. That day is not today, but believe it or not, the time-loop gimmick can still feel fresh, if it involves enough action and attitude. That is exactly what happens in Joe Carnahan’s Boss Level, which premieres today on Hulu.

Roy Pulver is a bit confused by the motley crew of assassins that keep killing him, but even more so when he continues waking-up at 7:00 AM, to repeat the experience over and over again. He is former Special Forces, so he pretty formidable himself, but the constant grind of it all is starting to wear him down. Eventually, he realizes his genius scientist ex-wife Jemma Wells (whom he still loves, despite his frat boy behavior) may have put him into the mad science Macguffin  to right some kind of wrong.

Sadly, he cannot ask her about it, since she was just murdered while working late in the lab. However, he can still protect his son Joe, who only knows him as a family friend, at least until the world ends each evening, sending him right back to 7:00 AM again.

Boss Level
wears its vintage video game inspiration on its sleeve, but it is much more than a nostalgic tribute to Streetfighter and the like. There is a whole lot of humor, heartfelt family values, and old school action baked in. As Pulver, Frank Grillo looks and acts like grittiness personified and he has really satisfying chemistry with Naomi Watts and Rio Grillo (maybe that one shouldn’t be too surprising) as Wells and young Joe, respectively.

For further action cred, Mel Gibson chews the scenery like nobody’s business as Wells’ villainous boss, Clive Ventor. Selina Lo shows off some spectacular swordplay as Guan Yin, the deadliest assassin out to get Pulver, while Michelle Yeoh gives fans a happy glow in her appearances as Dai Feng, a legendary Chinese sword-fighter, who teaches the art to Pulver, in
Edge of Tomorrow-style lessons.

Boss Level
pays off big without pandering or taking any easy outs. This film really should take Grillo to the next level of action cinema, so it is too bad it will not get the kind of wide theatrical release it deserves. It is loads of fun, but also leaves a lasting impression, in a good way. Happily, this is a time-loop movie that doesn’t feel like just another lime-loop movie. Enthusiastically recommended, Boss Level starts streaming today (3/5) on Hulu.