HomeMovies'Boss Level' Review: Frank Grillo Comes Out Looking Like a Real Boss

‘Boss Level’ Review: Frank Grillo Comes Out Looking Like a Real Boss

Frank Grillo and Mel Gibson in Hulu's Boss Level
Photo Credit: Hulu

It would be easy to dismiss director Joe Carnahan’s Boss Level as a lower-level genre movie trying to cash in on the popular Groundhog Day time loop plot device. Several films have used the formula well, with Edge of Tomorrow bringing the action, and last year’s Palm Springs bringing the laughs, but ask yourself, did either of those films bring you four-time Super Bowl winning tight end Rob Gronkowski firing a mini-gun from a UH-1 Huey helicopter in the first five minutes? Didn’t think so.

In actuality, Gronk has a blink and you’ll miss him cameo, and like nearly all of the fairly well-known cast, he isn’t especially integral to the film’s success. This is only because this is so clearly Frank Grillo’s movie. It can only be as good as he is playing retired Special Forces officer, Roy Pulver, who finds himself frustratingly stuck reliving the same day over and over again. Unfortunately for Roy, the day always ends with him killed by one of the various eccentric assassins trying to take him out for unknown reasons. Fortunately for the sake of the movie, Grillo naturally pulls off the tough guy action bit with ease, but he’s also funny, and just as convincing with the tender moments as well.

The main reason that Boss Level deserves some serious credit is because Carnahan has been trying to get it made for over a decade, writing a screenplay from the original story by Chris and Eddie Borey. So, when first conceptualized, it was a bit more ahead of the curve. It’s a fun concept that ties into video game culture, with clever jokes and graphics and even pays homage to some of the classics on screen. It crafts its narrative around Roy, who is the game’s protagonist, and who gets a little bit further along with each life, or in this case, day he repeats. Each time he suffers an agonizing, or somewhat humorous death, he learns a little bit more, finds a few more clues, and starts to put things together. Sure, it sucks to get blown up, shot, run over, and decapitated repeatedly, but ultimately, his persistence can pay off and he can make it to the very end, the boss level.

While everyone else exists to give Roy some vital information to set him on the right path, or simply be fodder for his death march across the city, there are some pretty serious names attached to this film. Naomi Watts, with two Oscar nominations to her name, plays Roy’s estranged love interest Jemma, who’s the mother to his son, and a brilliant scientist. Unfortunately, her poor choice in men is only outdone by her choice of science projects, as her work on the secretive “Osiris Spindle,” which manipulates the space time continuum clearly is the cause of everything. To her credit, she realizes a little too late that her boss, Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson) may not have the best intentions for funding their work.

While the Colonel could have been played by just about anyone, Gibson’s talent as an actor has never been called into question, so he’s of course great in the villain role, as he was in Machete Kills or Expendables 3. He’s not the most menacing of the people that Roy squares off with, but he’s certainly the most articulate. Throughout the movie, you are treated to small parts from people you know, like Ken Jeong, Michelle Yeoh, Annabelle Wallis, Sheaun McKinney, and Will Sasso playing his meanest character since people sat at the wrong booth in How I Met Your Mother. The standout among the henchman is the lesser-known Selina Lo as Guan Yin, who poses the biggest threat to Roy with her sword, and with her patronizing catchphrase.

One of the cooler things to see was Grillo’s own son Rio play his onscreen son Joe in the film. A sweet bond forms between them amidst all of the chaos, as Roy tries to get to know Joe better after missing out on most of his life to that point. Their chemistry together is wonderful, and it adds an extra layer to how impressive Grillo is in carrying all aspects of the film.

The fact that Carnahan chooses to have Grillo narrate Roy’s thoughts could be seen as a lazy way to explain things to the audience, but really it’s just keeping with the video game theme and also ensures nobody is missing anything when the plot involves nonsensical elements—like the Osiris Spindle, for example. It lends itself to the film’s overwhelming comedic tone, and makes his character more endearing. Pulling off a film like this is no easy task considering how meticulous you have to be to guard against continuity errors, and while you could probably spot a few upon a second watch, it’s doubtful anyone will care in the moment because they’d be having too much fun.

Hulu really has a hidden gem on their hands with Boss Level, and it’s a shame there hasn’t been more buzz around it. It fits perfectly into today’s straight-to-streaming model, and is probably in line for a second wind once more people discover it. It’s one of those movies with a fun title, cool artwork, and a recognizable cast that begs you to give it a shot, and then catches and keeps your attention right from the start. It’s great to see Carnahan direct again, and even better that it’s a passion project where he pushed for a deserving Grillo to star.

Boss Level is now available on Hulu.

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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