Boss Level, 2021.
Directed by Joe Carnahan.
Starring Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Will Sasso, Annabelle Wallis, Sheaun McKinney, Selina Lo, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong and Rio Grillo.
An ex-Delta Force officer (Frank Grillo) is trapped in a perpetual time loop, reliving the same over and over again.
Boss Level starts with a bang then throws in bags of charisma, courtesy of Frank Grillo’s wise cracking everyman. Dodging bullets, bad guys and heavy artillery Roy Pulver introduces himself in between cups of coffee. This is Edge of Tomorrow meets Grand Theft Auto minus the armour, aliens or Angel of Verdun.
Directed and co-written by Joe Carnahan, this endlessly inventive set piece feels like Groundhog Day with guns and ammo. Frank Grillo has charm to spare, displaying a level of athleticism, sarcasm and comic timing that will make audiences take notice. On the other hand, Mel Gibson’s contribution amounts to little more than an extended cameo, even if he is having fun delivering pithy put downs and leaning into his movie star iconography. An issue which only increases, when audiences realise Naomi Watts exists solely as a motivational plot device.
Relentlessly pursued by unnamed mercenaries, there is huge fun to be had from watching this ex-Delta Force marine bite the big one. Boss Level taps into its Eighties retro video game vibe, by keeping things light yet embracing the bloody side of repeated assassinations. Sub-plots are squeezed in quickly, sketching a broad back story involving failed relationships and father son dynamics. Playing opposite his own son, Frank Grillo is able to inject some genuine pathos into their scenes together, exploiting that natural chemistry and slowing things down.
Although Boss Level trades on cliché and acknowledges some classics of the genre en route, a supporting cast including Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong and Selina Lo prove good value. Selina Lo is a particular highlight channelling her sword welding alter-ego Guan Yin, who only becomes more comedic with each encounter. Beyond the high octane set pieces, outrageous MacGuffin and a leading man who fulfils the action hero brief with aplomb, Boss Level possesses a confidence and bravado that will make repeat viewings mandatory.
What it also proves without doubt is how good Frank Grillo can be when put front and centre. Completing a complex shoot in limited time, carrying the film from start to finish as well as producing this alongside Joe Carnahan, makes Boss Level no small undertaking. For that reason, criticism feels superfluous when such odds are overcome in the name of entertainment. This film almost defies audiences not to be impressed by its gumption, gusto and infinite amounts of backbone mixed in with some audacious action beats. If all that fails then prepare to be won over by the imminent ascension of an action star in waiting.
Boss Level streams exclusively on Hulu from March 5th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★