On May 9th, Roy Pulver wakes up to find an assassin in his apartment. Roy survives the attack on his life, only to discover that this is the first of many brushes with death from a whole cavalcade of hired killers.
But this isn’t the only problem Roy is facing – the former Delta Force soldier quickly learns that he is stuck in a time loop. The assassination attempts are therefore never ending, and as each day repeats itself, he has to fend for his life over and over again.
The longest Roy manages to live in one daily cycle is until 12:47pm. No matter what bullets he dodges, no matter how many knives he ducks, bombs he sidesteps, or grappling hooks he avoids, he can never move beyond this point in time.
Can he piece together enough information to move forward or is he forever doomed to live and die at the hands of professional killers? And more importantly, why him? Why is Roy the only person trapped in this situation?
The little blurb above describes the premise of Boss Level – a sci-fi, action movie from director Joe Carnahan. The film starsFrank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Michelle Yeoh, Naomi Watts and Ken Jeong, and makes its UK debut on Friday, via Amazon Prime Video.
Without any further preamble, I am going to tell you know that I am ready to slap a big fat recommendation on this movie. Boss Level is a gem of a picture, which you are going to want to watch.
Yes, I know there have been a number of time-loop movies in recent times, and you have seen it all before, but don’t let this put you off this picture. Boss Level is filled with action, includes a great collection of gags, is packed with heart, boasts a strong soundtrack, and most important of all, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
Unlike some time-loop stories, Boss Level benefits from great editing choices, as well as a fairly tight story. The movie zips along at a pretty pace, doesn’t fall into the trappings other time-loop stories have, and never gets bogged down with endless looping.
Sure, there is a bit of repetition here and there, but for the most part new material is constantly being brought to the screen. Various loops are covered in flashback to highlight what Roy has already gone through, and enough variations and new characters are introduced into the story, to keep things interesting.
What then elevates the film even further, is the way it borrows ideas from a computer game – or rather, the concept of playing a computer game. Anyone who has ever got stuck on a certain level on a game will know that you often have to play and re-play scenarios in order to overcome obstacles and this is essentially what is happening with Roy.
At times, Roy feels very much like an avatar in an old platform game, with every loop being a new ‘life’. Each new life gives Roy the opportunity to learn new tricks, or to achieve certain tasks.
By mirroring the format of a game, Boss Level not only manages to repackage a well-worn concept, but also puts the audience in the role of the ‘player’. OK, so the audience doesn’t actually get to make Roy’s decisions, but we do get to feel as if we are in someway partaking in the game of his life and this helps Boss Level to feel so much more than just another Groundhog Day.
Boss Level also benefits from a great lead in Frank Grillo. He is a very confident, very likeable presence in the movie, and his performance is strong.
The actor does get a little back-up from the likes of Mel Gibson as a cigar-chompin’ bad guy, and Naomi Watts as Roy’s love interest, but both of these roles are largely thankless. Not that it really matters – this is Grillo’s movie; he’s note perfect, he never puts a foot wrong and he will be the reason you keep watching.
Chuck in a few elements of film noir, lots of explosions, and a rather touching scene which adds some emotional depth to Roy’s story, and you have a tip-top picture. And it is a picture which raises the stakes as it progresses, so that no matter how many loops it has to go through, there is always an end point in sight.
If the movie has a flaw, it is in the ending which is a little abrupt. Personally, I didn’t have an issue with it, but I know it will bug some people.
But regardless of this potential sticking point, Boss Level is a solid movie. It doesn’t mess around, and delivers great entertainment.
2021 has already served up a belting action movie in the shape of Nobody, as well as an enjoyable time-loop comedy in the form of The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Boss Level blends the best bits from both movies and if you are game for a clever little action film, which really packs a punch, I urge you to seek it out.