By: Anthony Francis
“Some things you can’t redo. Some things you are forced to do over and over again.”
If Frank Grillo were acting in the 1980s, he would havebeen one of the biggest stars of the decade.
Grillo can act, he is naturally tough, ruggedly handsome, in excellent shape, and looks completely natural in action scenes. The man has presence. This cannot be denied.
Director Joe Carnahan uses Grillo’s skills to the bloody hilt for his new Action film, “Boss Level, a true thrill ride that is an absolute blast.
Written by Chris and Eddie Borey and Joe Carnahan, this new release tells the story of Ron Pulver (Grillo). Pulver is a retired special forces officer who is caught in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over.
Each “new” day finds Pulver hunted by gun and explosive-toting assassins who are relentlessly trying to kill him and he has no clue as to why.
Grillo’s character begins every day dodging a machete wielding killer and a helicopter with gun turrets pouring hundreds of bullets in his body. Sometimes this is the best part of his day. In this film, what kills you does indeed make you stronger.
It is a blast to watch Pulver relive each day and navigate how each blade, bullet, bomb, and vehicle will kill him. He teaches himself to survive so he can unravel the mystery of why this “Groundhog Day” situation is happening to him.
Joe Carnahan keeps the film lively and the action entertaining and creative. There is a sword fight, lots of explosions, some good car stunts, and a brutal bus crash that finds our hero being hurled out of his drop top car and into the bus via the windshield.
The film’s best action moment comes in one hell of achoreographed gun battle on a stairway where Grillo blasts his way through a squad of baddies, making his way from top to bottom.
The cast is solid. Naomi Watts plays Pulver’s ex, a scientist who works for a corporation who is dabbling in dangerous experiments with a machine that bends time but could very well cause the end of the world.
The facility is run by a boastful madman played by the one and only Mel Gibson.
Gibson is an actor and filmmaker that I have long admired,but I am not sure what drew him to this particular film. His role is one of the film’s only deficits. As the bad guy, Colonel Clive Ventor, Gibson’s part is underwritten. His character doesn’t do much, but the actor seems to be having fun and it is always great to see ol’ Mel on screen.
Ken Jeong does his usual funny work as the owner of a diner, comedian Will Sasso is tough and humorous as Gibson’s right hand man-thug, and the legend that is Michelle Yoeh has a small but fun cameo as a master swords-woman who teaches Pulver to fight with a blade while Badfinger’s 70s AM classic “Day After Day” scores the montage.
The screenplay contains many impressive moments and gives Grillo a full canvas to show off his skills, both as an action star and an actor.
The actor has some good moments where Pulver tries to connect with his estranged son (played by Grillo’s actual son, Rio) who isn’t aware that he is his father.
Within these moments, Carnahan finds the humanity amidst all the carnage and infuses the madness with a little heart. These scenes work very well and remind us that the filmmaker can do great character work as he did so well in the films “Narc” and “The Grey”, the later featuring a great turn from Grillo.
The writing for a film such as this one is above average in today’s Hollywood. There is a great line where Watts and Grillo are speaking to one another after he has returned from yet another death. Watts says, “I just saw you yesterday.”
Grillo replies, “And I haven’t seen you in forever.” It is a clever line that plays upon the film’s time jumping themesand says volumes about their two characters.
While the screenplay is quite clever at times, it lets us down in the finale. I will not reveal where it ends up, but I will say that it was not enough, especially after all that came before. Still, for almost the entire film, this is one strong and inventive entertainment.
“Boss Level” is full of absurdist action, violent fun, and twisted humor. Inventive and exciting, Joe Carnahan crafted a complete blast of an action film that is further proof that Frank Grillo should be a household name.
Boss Level is now streaming on HULU!