Boss Level, directed by Joe Carnahan, is a fun mashup of video games, time-travel, action and comedy.
Frank Grillo stars as Roy Pulver, a special forces soldier who is forced to relive, over and over again, a day where it seems like the whole world is trying to kill him. An endless stream of assassins, sent by villainous Colonel Ventor (Mel Gibson) are attempting his murder and only through practice and repetition is he able to master the necessary moves to survive. On top of that, he’s got to unravel the mystery of why it’s happening, which seems to be something to do with a project his ex-girlfriend Jemma (Naomi Watts) is working on.
If this sounds rather a lot like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow, it is. But, aside from the time loop and some lessons about learning to value the right things, it’s a very, very different sort of experience; the focus here is on comedic, over-the-top action more than anything else. It’s more like the perspective of someone learning to play a video game in real life. It’s even a bit like Hardcore Henry in its sheer relentlessness, but is a far more agreeable sort of film than that was. This is primarily due to Grillo’s gruff charm, which elevates the film from a mere exercise to something with a surprising amount of heart and character. Even the voiceover, which is usually a sign of trouble, is an enjoyable addition to the film thanks to his gravelly, sardonic narration. This is an actor who deserves more and better roles.
Is it perfect? No, there are some definite problems, primarily due to the distance the central conceit places you from engaging with the action. You are seldom on the edge of your seat thanks to the knowledge that he has infinite redos, and the narration purposefully deflates proceedings for comedy’s sake. That said, the action is so crazy and even shocking at times, that you would probably have laughed anyway.
Another fault is the use of lousy explosion effects and digital blood splatter that looks genuinely cheap. This feels nitpicky, but the film is well enough put together that this sort of crumminess stands out. It’s not a disqualifying fault and, given this is a mostly comedic film, it’s not too much of a problem. It just makes it feel like it needs more work.
Sometimes the pop-culture references feel a little pandering, but they’re generally worked into the story pretty organically and generally don’t feel as nudge-and-wink as the smarmy quips most post-Whedon genre entertainment suffers from now.
If you’ve been waiting for a lighthearted action comedy and you don’t mind (or are amused by) a lot of really brutal deaths, this is the movie for you. It’s not absolutely brilliant, but it’s definitely worth your consideration and it has an amiable quality that will win you over and make up for any of its deficiencies.
IN CINEMAS 25 FEBRUARY