Movie Review: ‘Boss Level’

Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts, Mel Gibson, Michelle Yeoh

Plot: A special forces soldier unexpectedly finds himself repeating the same day over and over again, during which he is pursued by a colourful group of assassins while trying to find a way to resolve his predicament.

Review: This is movie that begins with a bang. There is no time for set-up, this is an action movie for action people! Our hero Roy Pulver (Grillo) is already more than a hundred repeats through his timeloop and can get through his morning wake-up/attack-by-a-machete-waving-maniac and subsequent distraction of his apartment by attack helicopter without any effort. He even enjoys a morning cup of coffee while easily weaving his way through the devastation, everything stylised with video game graphics and visual gags. If you were hoping for no holes-barred wild, cool excitement then you have come to the right place. This is the kind of action sequence you want to immediately skip back and rewatch, because it’s just so gosh darn cool.

It’s a shame that the movie comes a screeching halt after this prologue. We get a quick introduction to the whacky assassins – which is fun – but then we jump backwards in time a day for character development. The visual motif of video games disappears and we get treated to a long scene of Pulver talking to his ex-wife Jemma (Watts) about him getting a job. We also have it alluded to that her boss is an evil man (Gibson) and they all carefully avoid talking about the giant science machine sitting in the background and how obvious it is that Gibson is an abusive figure who has Jemma scared.

Eventually we get back to the timeloop and enjoy Pulver trying to find out what is going on and how to best avoid the assassins. Again, this is fun and we get some investment into Pulver’s journey when he crosses paths with his son, who is unaware of his parentage. The stakes get steadily raised and Pulver tries to find the right path through the day that not only saves him, but his son, his ex-wife and the entire world that is threatened by science machine. It’s paced well enough that the movie keeps us engaged through to the end. The goofy assassins add to this, especially Selina Lo as Guan Yin, the sword wielding killer who needs Pulver to level up his own sword skills to defeat.

This is a functional action thriller that will keep you entertained, but it lets itself down by trying to incorporate this video game motif but having no idea how to make it work through the exposition and emotional beats. There’s a suggestion of Edgar Wright’s style inspiring proceedings, but without the commitment needed to pull it off.

There’s also the issue of Mel Gibson. Described as being “ultraconservative”, Gibson has been accused of domestic abuse, had restraining orders taking out against by family members, been found to be using off-shore accounts to hide funds and publicly, drunkenly went on anti-semitic rants while verbally abusing a woman law enforcement officer who had just arrested him. This is an actor who is happy to call a police office “sugar tits”, and argues against equal rights for women. On the other hand, he made Hacksaw Ridge, which some people perplexingly seem to think redeems him. If you’re going to put Mel Gibson in a movie like this, you can at least have the decency to kill him a couple more times.

With more commitment to the visual style and less Gibson, this could be a fun, rewatchable romp on the level of Happy Death Day. As it is, it’s a decent time kill.

Rating: SIX out of TEN