It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that movies are a form of escapism. It’s part of the movie-going experience that we anticipate being surprised and entertained and surpassing our expectations. Boss Level, adding another ring to Joe Carnahan’s masculine-fueled directing hand, was indeed just that: a surprising, action-filled film that’s loads of fun.
This much about Boss Level is true: It’s a cheapened version of the fantastic Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow (or in some territories, Live Die Repeat); The script has absolutely no logic or conception of truth; Mel Gibson is an unfortunate casting choice; and it’s an entertaining, high-octane ride.
The action sequences are so fantastically crafted that I could look past the CVS receipt length of things that don’t work about this film. Frank Grillo is fantastic as the sly retired Special Forces Officer who gets trapped living the same day of his death and must figure out how the loop started and how to move past it. He is the type of action star you root for while cringing at his narration.
For all its faults and desperate need for someone with common sense to review the script, Boss Level is a blast. Sitting at a comfortable 94 minutes, audiences will undoubtedly find something to enjoy here.
Meet Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo), a retired Special Forces Officer who wakes each morning to an assassin trying to slice his head off in his apartment. He tells us that he has lived this exact day 140 times. A helicopter will shoot him in his apartment if he defeats the killer. Someone wants him dead, and he doesn’t know why. If he escapes via the window, lands on a truck, and tries to run away, more killers will turn up to thwart his survival. It’s why he has never lived past 12:47 PM.
From the first moment, Roy is already well-versed in making it out of his apartment to his favorite Japanese restaurant but struggles to find more answers. Thankfully, his friend Dave (Sheaun McKinney) mentions he can detect any tracking device, which Roy realizes must be how the killers keep finding him. In one hilarious scene, Roy extracts his teeth one by one and finds that, indeed, there was a tracking device planted on him. He is willing to do anything for answers because, after midday, he will die again anyway.
Roy was once a happy guy. He had a woman Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts), whom he loved, a kid he never saw, but now he’s pissed off and wants a chance to live his life better. He recounts visiting Jemma at her offices in an overtly villain-esque control room, and as he tries to give her his resume, she pushes him to leave. The Boss, Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson), and his sidekick Brett (Will Sasso) are watching the scene unfold on monitors. They are concerned Jemma might reveal top-secret information about their work. Secretly, Jemma implants a device that allows Roy to live repeatedly, and he must figure out why. Soon he’s learning how to evade the killers and starts getting closer to answering how to exit the time loop.
The three screenwriting credits are awarded to Chris Borey, Eddie Borey, and Joe Carnahan. Neither can be commended for their efforts to suspend disbelief. However, Carnahan expertly crafts the action sequences so that the blood starts pumping. He supports each sequence with an accompanying rock track to identify its craziness and effectiveness further. The voiceover from Roy, explaining every movement, does become tedious, but Frank Grillo makes it all enjoyable. Watch as he replays his attempts to escape the apartment alive: rushing out the window, landing on the truck, and SPLAT! The truck rolls over him. Again, he rushes out the window, lands on the truck, steal a car, and SPLAT! he is hit by another car. The sequence works because Grillo heightens the emotion with his narration, and we can feel his frustration.
But the harshness toward the writing of the script is not unfounded. There are so many questionable decisions. Why is it easy for Roy to drop his resume in Jemma’s control room in the first act, but then he must evade security and kill every possible being to get back there in the third act? Why are the only two Asian characters the only ones who know how to wield a sword? Why does Roy insist on driving in the same direction every time he manages to escape his apartment, only to be hit at the same intersection by the same truck each time? I could only surmise that google maps don’t work during a time loop.
But why else watch a movie if not to be entertained? The action-packed ninety-plus minutes are exactly what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for entertainment. So what if you roll your eyes two dozen times?