18th Dec2020

‘Boss Level’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Ken Jeong, Annabelle Wallis, Michelle Yeoh, Will Sasso, Mathilde Olivier | Written by Joe Carnahan, Chris Borey, Eddie Borey | Directed by Joe Carnahan

THIS… This is how you take a genre or story device and make it feel fresh! Let’s be honest the old re-living the same day over and over till it has a satisfying conclusion is a trope we have seen many many times. Groundhog Day and more recently Happy Death Day are a couple that spring to mind, so when I read the synopsis for Boss Level I did kind of shake my head. However, like I have said so many times, if someone I like is in the movie or it’s a director I’m into then your damn right I’m going to give it a fair shake!

Here we have Frank Grillo (Beyond Skyline), Mel Gibson (Fatman) and a whole slew of character actors you will recognize: from Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, Will Sasso, Mathilde Olivier and Naomi Watts to name but a few. Then you put the big man in the chair, with Narc and Smoking Aces director Joe Carnahan taking the reins on a movie that he has been trying for years to get off the ground (but for one reason or another kept hitting road blocks). So setting my initial trepidation to the side, I found myself won over by a strong cast of “I know that guy” and a director I’m all about, making Boss Level a movie I HAD to see…

Ex Special Forces Roy Pulver is having a very bad day, well actually he is having a long line of bad days. What I mean is that he is repeating the same day over and over and that day just so happens to be the day a whole bunch bad ass mother-fluffers are out to kill him! Why is Roy re-living the same day? Why are all these maniacs trying to kill him? How does he stop it? Roy doesn’t have the answers but he is pretty sure it’s something to do with his ex wife (Naomi Watts) and her super evil looking boss Mel Gibson.

As much as Joe Carnahan has his fingerprints all over this movie, this truly is a Frank Grillo vehicle in every single sense of the word… By the way, how is Frank Grillo not considered to be top tier actor?

We meet Roy Pulver after having lived this day a whole bunch of times already, so he is pretty clued-in to how this works and it’s us as the viewer playing catch-up via narration. He has figured out how to survive to a certain point but can’t get any further; so for the most part he just gets to that point and gets wasted drunk which is an interesting concept. WE are slowly drip fed the rules of the movie via flashbacks then begin to learn how he can stop this as HE is drip fed little nuggets of info. That is how they have kept this from being a rinse and repeat flick, it’s fairly high concept and continuously flips things on its head.

Grillo is superb in the lead role and as an actor he seems to be falling nicely into the more action “hero” type performances and roles. This movie proving that he is at his best doing action when he also has the ‘heart’ of the story stuff to go with it. By that I mean he isn’t paying for a conservatory and phoning it in, case in point his relationship with his characters son. His narration is fun and playful but pulls on the strings when it needs to. Mel Gibson is a very cool addition and I am truly happy to see him doing what he does best again. However he doesn’t have a lot to do, great in his scenes but not enough of them.

Supporting cast wise, well… everyone plays their parts really well and owns there scenes; a lot of them don’t get too long to shine as the movie has a real Smoking Aces ensemble feel but you kinda feel like they are all having a blast. Which is what you want in you off-the-wall, bonkers action flick. Special shout out to Meadow Williams stealing her scene about Hitlers gun!

For me this is the best Carnahan has been as a director since Smoking Aces. The action is very well done as usual for him, the story is pretty out there and the style of this one is like a really slick “Tony Scott” vibe – giving that fantastical hyper-realistic feel in a somewhat grounded universe.

Now I mentioned up top about Grillo’s relationship with the characters son and I want to circle back to this for a couple of reasons. One is that a couple of times in this movie they pump the breaks to give some layering of the character, which normally can be what a movie will fall foul to. I’m not saying Boss Level did this amazingly well but when it did this, it also served as a huge lane shift to the point that you could almost split this flick into episodes. One of these moments serves to build the relationship with his son played by Rio Grillo (yes his real life son). I’m a sucker for things like this and to see the relationship form and blossom before you is endearing. For obvious reasons they have great on screen chemistry and when utillised correctly the relationship gives you a couple of character moments that hurt your soul. Perfection!

All in all, I have no complaints about this film. Grillo and Carnahan are production team match-made in heaven, probably why they have formed WarPath together. I have high hopes for an American remake of The Raid with these guys on it!

Boss Level is a fun action romp that holds no punches and delivers on every front. Choreography is great; the story is good, not perfect, but good enough to really work and not break its own rules; the acting is spot on and Grillo leads from the front like a true star. Also, If you really want, you can just shut your brain off and be entertained! Who doesn’t want that in 2020?

****½  4.5/5

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