Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 4th, 2021
Boss Level (Joe Carnahan, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
I’ll admit, Boss Level teeters on the edge of originality in multiple ways, pulling from various inspirations to achieve its end result. However, as a film that fully embodies its genre, tone and storyline, this movie from director Joe Carnahan (Stretch) is clever, consistent and compelling throughout. It starts with an exciting opening and never lets up, the action, witty comedy and solid storytelling all enough to highlight and support the entertaining filmmaking. While the core conventions tend to become clichés, and there really is no deeper meaning to the film to bring it above-and-beyond them, Boss Level is far from disappointing.
The movie tells the story of ex-special forces soldier Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo, Point Blank), who find himself stuck in a mysterious time loop in which a handful of deadly assassins attempt to murder him over and over again (and consistently succeed in doing so). As Roy psychologically grapples with the deadly time loop, he also struggles to unveil the secret behind why the loop continues to happen, leading to a rekindling of his relationships with his wife Jemma (Naomi Watts, Penguin Bloom) and his son Joe (Rio Grillo). Roy must discover the secret to the time loop, and save his family, all while overcoming the mindset of simply… not caring about his life anymore!
The film immediately establishes a fast-paced, witty, humorous feeling that gives it a perfect balance of comedy and intensity, making it incredibly enjoyable right off the bat. From there, the quick editing and sharp humor gives it a sense of momentum all the way through, and often does so with unexpected moments and pleasant surprises. Grillo’s sarcastic, imperfect presentation of an ex-soldier with no f*cks given (almost in the vein of Deadpool as a “not-quite-hero” persona) really drives the story, as his attitude makes for the bulk of the cleverness. The action sequences, distinct (if not all that memorable) array of antagonist characters, and well-choreographed fight sequences will certainly please any action-movie fan, particularly those viewers who have long since become accustomed to action mixed with humor (à la Marvel films or Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Boss Level, all the same, riffs off of films and narratives that have come before it. While clear and present, not much is unique about the “time loop” premise. A father reacquainting/redeeming himself with his wife and kid is also a movie trope that demands fresh originality, which Boss Level doesn’t necessarily always deliver. Nevertheless, nothing stops this movie from delivering a ton of fun, attention-grabbing moments, and achieving the “base” level of action, perfectly blended with solid humor, to make the overall story work just fine.