Combustible Celluloid
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With: Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts, Mel Gibson, Annabelle Wallis, Ken Jeong, Will Sasso, Selina Lo, Meadow Williams, Michelle Yeoh, Mathilde Ollivier, Rob Gronkowski, Sheaun McKinney
Written by: Chris Borey, Eddie Borey, Joe Carnahan, based on a story by Chris Borey, Eddie Borey
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/05/2021

Boss Level (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Time-Looping Like a 'Boss'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Yes, Boss Level is another time-loop movie, but this cheerfully relentless action movie comes right out fighting and keeps up the pace, with pauses for a few clever ideas and some genuinely touching moments.

Former special forces officer Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) is stuck in a time-loop, repeating the same day again and again. But this is no ordinary time loop. From the moment he wakes up, he's fighting for his life, battling a group of killers wielding high-powered assault rifles, swords, machetes, etc.. They are relentless and they always seem to know where he is. He has never had a moment to think, and he has never survived past 12:47 p.m.

Suddenly, he remembers a clue his estranged wife Jemma (Naomi Watts) — who works in a top secret capacity as a scientist — gave him the day before. He begins to discover more clues about his situation, and finds ways to use time to his advantage. Now he must navigate this complex day, stop the army of killers, rescue Jemma and his son, finally face the dangerous Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson), and then prevent the end of the world from happening.

Directed by Joe Carnahan (The A-Team, The Grey), Boss Level proves once again that one can borrow the Groundhog Day idea and, like Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day and Palm Springs, still add something new to it. In keeping poor Roy off-balance for the first chunk of the movie, it establishes a careening momentum that is positively energizing. Roy becomes more sympathetic as we realize that, after some 140 days, he has given up; his main goal is to make it to the bar and drink until he's killed.

But hope comes in many forms. Roy running into his son (played by Grillo's real-life son Rio), discovering the connection to Jemma, taking sword-fighting lessons, finding a tracking device, and using trial-and-error to learn and adapt, all become touching, exhilarating checkpoints.

Dreamed up by Chris and Eddie Borey, the story of Boss Level is thick and complex, with many events happening in many places, but Carnahan — who is at his career best here — keeps everything nicely balanced and beautifully paced. The main flaw is that there's so much going on, it leaves the ending feeling a little... unfinished. But Grillo — who finally has a solid breakout role — gives a final little wink that makes it all seem okay.

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