Written and directed by Joe Carnahan, co-written by Chris Borey and Eddie Borey, a retired special forces officer is trapped in a never-ending time loop on the day of his death. Starring: Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Will Sasso, Annabelle Wallis, Sheaun McKinney, Selina Lo, Michelle Yeoh and Ken Jeong.
If you asked a bunch of people to explain the typical qualities of an action movie, all those answers would add up to this film. Its style screams quintessential action, it uses all the tricks in the book. It’s also yet another example in the current resurgence of time loop films, although this one taps more into a video game respawn, rather than an existential crisis but tips a little of that in for good measure near the end. The consequence of those things is that the direction is exactly what you’d expect, it does what it needs to do and keeps things moving nice and fast but there’s nothing standing out. Carnahan has been a very hit and miss director over the years, but this is a return to more of his Smokin’ Aces days. Although it doesn’t bode a lot of confidence given that he’s directing the American remake of the Indonesian iconic action film The Raid.
One key thing has to be accepted with this film when taking its weaknesses into account, it’s dumb but fun, its intention is to entertain and that’s what it does. The writing from a wider perspective is terrible, you can palpably feel how happy with themselves the writers were with some of the cringey one-liners they threw in. From a much more specific viewpoint of giving its audience a fun, easy watch: it works. There are expectedly some major plot holes and Eddie (Grillo) is surprisingly dumb, you usually get a special ops, marine type character and they have a head for details but he’s less strategic more physical. It’s very likely that almost every person who watches this film will figure out what’s going on much quicker than Eddie does, it takes him an almost embarrassing amount of time to start putting the pieces together. Part of that may be a consequence of how the timing of the story was framed but it could have been handled better.
Grillo gives a good performance, it very much feels like he’s going for a Deadpool vibe but sadly with less of his vulgar charm. He’s not necessarily an actor you think of as a lead, he can just about pull it off but there’s something missing. He doesn’t come across as smoothly or genuinely as a stronger actor might, especially when he tries for more emotional moments but his work with the choreography is top notch. There’s a great ensemble behind him, making up the group of assassins tasked with killing him every day, especially Selina Lo as Guan Yin who makes a very memorable appearance. Mel Gibson’s role as top villain feels very underused, they gave him a typical set-up and really he doesn’t have to do very much. Whereas Will Sasso’s Brett feels like a much more fun, aggressive character that works better as the enemy. You can never go wrong adding Michelle Yeoh to your cast and Sheaun McKinney alongside Ken Jeong bring a nice extra note of comedy.
The effects are about the level you’d expect, definitely more suited to home-viewing but perfectly convincing for the most part. It’s the stunt work that really shines here, being so full of action, it would not work at all without the speed and precision that they’re performed with. It’s a blast watching them try to kill each other and the myriad of ways that the time loop presents.
Boss Level is a slice of action-packed fun, it’s the exact type of film you want when you just need something entertaining that you don’t have to think about. Its story takes a lot from the films that have come before it, it doesn’t necessarily have much original to offer but that doesn’t stop it from being a good time. You can’t ignore that it has problems and weaknesses but for the sort of film that it is and what it’s trying to do, they really don’t matter that much. This is a film to simply grab the popcorn and enjoy.