- Nate Adams
Review: Sleight 'Boss Level' stuck on repeat playing old hits
Courtesy of Hulu
Between time travel loophole films ala “Palm Springs,” “Happy Death Day,” “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” and now “Boss Level,” I’m feeling the side effects of watching the routine “stuck in the same day” plot albeit with a different genre (action, young-adult, horror, or comedy). So goes Joe Carnahan’s gleefully violent though lackluster “Boss Level,” which sees Frank Grillo stuck in a video-game simulation fighting his way atop the food chain to face one scruffy Mel Gibson. It’s completely derivative and Carnahan - who found success with “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Grey” - never reaches the caffeinated highs suggested by Chris and Eddie Borey’s bonkers screenplay.
Instead, “Boss Level'' twists the “Groundhog Day” formula into another mindless gimmick where a few solid punches are thrown and gratuitously violent deaths run the gamut for two hours, but fails to bottle Grillo’s energy into something worthwhile. Essentially playing the same character he does in every movie, Grillo is ex-special force operative Roy Pulver, who when the movie starts has relived the same days 139 times. Though wry voiceovers and a slick: “I know more than you” attitude, Grillo provides the foundation for his dilemma: He’d like to figure out how to break the cycle, but an arsenal of deadly assassins squash his hopes, usually, before lunchtime. What’s a guy to do?
Pulver, being the “John Wick” knockoff he is, tries new tricks each day to no avail and explains his process though intermittent narration. At least Grillo is committed, which makes his raspy narrations comical to a fault, though as the death count piles up, you can’t help but feel that “Boss Level” is living in the shadow of better movies. Some kinks arise thanks to his ex-wife Jemma (Naomi Watts) who he suspects is the key to his eventual release, though it's small potatoes compared to the bloodshed and ultraviolence perpetrated on-screen.
“Boss Level” finds strains of momentum when it ditches the screenplay’s formulaic nature (a nauseating subplot around his son never clicks) and focuses on kicking ass. Thanks to Grillo, “Boss Level” is alloted credibility in that department even if the movie around him is stuck on repeat playing old hits. One day, Grillo is going to find his “John Wick,” but “Boss Level” - despite its best efforts - is not that movie.
BOSS LEVEL debuts on Hulu Friday, March 5th