Boss Level (2021) review. Starring Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson. Streaming on Hulu.
Aw geez. Another over the top, winking at the camera, time loop movie. Haven’t we had enough of this crap? Only one problem.
I LOVED it.
I really assumed this would be a lazy rip-off of what we’ve seen before. I suppose some of it was but really I was generally surprised at how well this all worked. For one, there’s no “discovering your in a timeloop” segment. We know what’s going on, no need to hash it out for us. How he got there is something we discover later on but we don’t have to see Day 2.
He’s already well into the loop and it starts basically where you see it in the trailer. Frank Grillo plays Roy, a hard-drinking divorced guy who, while very capable, can’t get out of his own way. He’s straight out of the 80s. Grillo needs way more work and could be the next action star of our time. He feels like a throwback but not antiquated. He’s got plenty of charm and humor but can pull of sincere when he needs to.
He’s stuck in a loop where he can’t get past 12:47pm that day from when we wakes up at 7:00am. There are a group of assassins that somehow find him wherever he goes and kill him. He has figured a set of decisions that gets him to a bar where he can drink until 12:47pm where they finally catch up to him.
Sometimes he forgets a move and gets killed earlier, harkening to playing a video game where you know all the moves but once in a while you miss a beat. The video game references are there but never hit you over the head.
As he is going through he starts to remember “yesterday” as everyone else would but for him is months ago. He had found out his ex-wife (Naomi Watts) was killed that day and he’s been using the loop to just get to a bar to drink the memory away. Somehow the assassins, a motley and hilarious group of over the top weirdos, are more at home in a John Wick movie than here. That’s a compliment, by the way.
When he finally remembers in loop 156 (maybe, they kept telling the number but I forget) that his wife had told him she sent him a birthday present and mentioned Osiris. He gets the book and makes it off to another place to read it but it doesn’t help him much.
His 11-year-old son happens to be there for a video game tournament, ditching school, and he gets to reconnect with him a bit. It’s then he begins to realize that he is actually alive longer than he’s ever been and deduces that there must be a tracker on him. The underground area he was in must’ve been blocking it.
A few more times through the loop and thanks to strategically placed NPC’s, I mean some other characters he’s run into at the bar, he figures out the tracker is in one of his molars. Now he’s finally able to get the drop on these assassins. He continues to make his way through to finally kill the boss, Mel Gibson.
It’s then he finds out that his wife had put him in this Osiris machine, or some of his DNA? There’s some handwaving on that part but the point is she put him in this time loop. Mel tells him that if you’re in too long the world ends. Sure enough, sometime later in the afternoon, the entire world explodes.
I won’t spoil the rest of the Boss Level in this review, it has in-jokes, movie references, video game references, action movie references, time loop references… quite frankly this should’ve been a complete mess. But it isn’t.
The heart of the movie is Roy getting to understand and repair his relationship with his family. Everything else is in service to that emotional underpinning and that’s why it works.
Of course, it couldn’t have if the leads couldn’t execute and Grillo does a great job. Him with his son gave me Commando vibes in a good way. Also this movie is just flat out fun. I found myself laughing here and there with the movie, not at it.
My wife fell asleep halfway through it and had trouble following it. I can see it wouldn’t be everyone’s bag. But I can’t recommend it enough. I had a blast. It has just enough depth to make care and root for the characters but it never falls into schmaltz. It has just enough meta-humor to make it funny, but not enough to make your eyes roll. It balances everything really well and I’ve got to credit that to the direction and editing. To do that correctly, given everything that’s going on, not to mention the repetitive nature of time loop movies takes a real eye.
No time loop movie is ever going to top Groundhog Day, but this is definitely in second place in my opinion. Give it a watch!