False promise of a forbidden love affair
BOSS LEVEL (2021)
One of my guilty pleasures is a good action flick. The explosions, the fights, the insanely beautiful people! What more could you ask for? Boss Level delivers the action goods, and the merging with sci-fi brings an interesting subtext, but the weak storyline stands out even in a genre that doesn’t require much substance to begin with; however, the film is still an enjoyable (if not overly memorable) watch.
Joe Carnahan’s well-established in the action genre, with such films as The A-Team, Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane and The Grey being just a few of his directing or credits, and he continues to deliver with Boss Level. The film features plenty of explosions, gun fights and hand-to-hand combat scenes to keep even the smallest attention span holder enthralled. Is it the best film Carnahan’s produced for the genre? Not by a long shot, but he brings the characters to life from a script that leaves much to be desired. However, Carnahan falls into the trap many action directors do: filling weak points with a gratuitous amount of car chases, explosions and violence. Instead of focusing on character development, a car chase/fight/maniacal laughing is supposed to suffice.
Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) lives a Rambo life in a Groundhog Day world, continuously reliving the same day repeatedly until he dies. His death is carried out in fantastical ways by a group of assassins hell-bent on ending his life; although, Pulver has no idea why they’ve been sent to kill him. He quickly finds himself involved in a plot that involves his ex, Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts), and her boss, Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson), as he attempts to figure out how to end his time loop.
While Carnahan could have written an interesting, if not all together new, story to explore the “one man saves the world” trope, the viewer is left thinking they’re watching an extended episode of the old Spike standby 1,000 Ways to Die. Grillo dies upwards of 20 times on screen (including a few suicides) that it starts to feel redundant. Some days only last a few minutes, while others are upwards of 10. Personally, I’m a fan of pre-credit film scenes, and the film would benefit from showcasing some of Pulver’s deaths in a 10-minute montage before the first scene. Instead, viewers are subjected to a lot of cliché filler that makes the film feel much longer than 100 minutes.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Grillo isn’t going to solidify himself as an action hero in Boss Level, but he delivers a decent performance that may see him into becoming an American Jason Statham (King of the B’s). He’s made Pulver a sarcastic asshole that quickly grows on you, even if he would be insufferable in real life. Gibson is back on screen, delivering his usual menacing-ness that really doesn’t bring anything to the screen we haven’t already seen.
What really stands out is how under utilized the supporting cast is. Watts, Michelle Yeoh, Will Sasso and Ken Jeong are so painfully underutilized that Carnahan really had no need to cast them. They really are just in Boss Level as cameos, but one wishes that some of the estimated $45 million dollar budget could have been used to give them some more screen time.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There’s a reliance on CGI in Boss Level that borders on B-movie cheesy. Bright, flashing lights do not classify a film as sci-fi, nor are CGI helicopters really aren’t necessary in 2021. Everything that’s supposed to “make” the film believable is old hat by now. However, the set design is well done, especially Pulver’s gorgeous (albeit repeatedly destroyed) bachelor pad. Could it be better? Yes, but nothing is really going to detract the viewer from enjoying the film.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Nothing is going to WOW the viewer, but the upbeat, “I’ve just done leg day” music fits the film. Personally, I only had two instances where the sound was a bit patchy; however, this might have been solved if the film had a big screen release. The score would be perfect for a day where people just need a pick-me-up.
If “meh” could be a film, it would be Boss Level. Nothing really stands out as good or bad—minus a rather repetitive plot—but it doesn’t really need to in a genre that rarely achieves nothing beyond enjoyable mediocracy. If you want to watch some mindless, violent entertainment that can kill almost two hours of your time, the film may be for you.