Boss Level has its moments for being little more than a scattershot attempt at gritty Groundhog Day.
Boss Level (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on April 23, 2021
Rating 2.5 /5
How long has the Groundhog Day template been favored again and again for tales of redoing one’s life? How many different formats has it spanned? Boss Level is yet another one of these films, this time posing the one-day-repeats formula for an eccentric and ultra-violent action picture with comedic exaggeration. Paired with a combination of a sci-fi mystery, the film does have its moments of cleverness, even when it seems to be literally spinning the same wheels over and over again.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t waste our time with too much set up for those who have been on this ride before. We catch up with the retired soldier Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) after having gone through the same day about 150 times. He gives us a rundown of how much he’s experienced so far. At this point in the story, he’s being targeted by a number of varied assassins throughout the city. They’re so persistent that Roy wakes up every day to at least two of them assaulting his apartment with machetes and machine guns.
This angle is at least interesting in that Roy doesn’t know why his day keeps repeating upon every death he experiences. We’re left in the same state as Roy trying to figure out how he got there. With each attempt, he learns a little bit more about how he ended up in this spot and why he’s being targeted. He learns that it has something to do with a science experiment, a powerful organization, a singularity that could destroy the planet, and Egyptian lore. Though it’s a unique blending of past and future which most likely plays thematic relevance, it’s ultimately not as impressive or clever as the action considering it serves its purpose for little more than a sci-fi excuse for the time loop.
Of course, there’s more at play here than just finding out how to close the loop. There are bits and pieces of Roy’s story that float around trying to come to terms with both his ex-wife and his kid, both of whom he connects with indifferent attempts. In a few versions, he corners his kid at an arcade and they bond over Street Fighter and Galaga. In another few versions, he seeks out his wife to make sure she doesn’t become a target. But his boy may also be targeted at the same time, meaning that Roy will have to become faster and craftier at saving the day and solving the mystery.
In terms of action, Boss Level steadily avoids becoming too much of a slog with a variety of demises. The variance of the opponents keeps things a bit fresh where Roy finds himself facing off against guns, swords, explosives, and even a harpoon. The film isn’t afraid to get extra bloody and gory with the details, to the point where it becomes daunting to figure out just how many times Roy has been decapitated throughout the movie. There’s also something compelling about watching Roy slowly progress through each attempt to become a more adept killing machine.
Not all of this works though. With such a formula, you’re bound to run into some repetition that, no matter how much a part of the joke, wears thin after a while. Michelle Yeoh plays a sword-wielding assassin who I always state her name after making a kill and announcing what she has done. She says this every time she makes a kill. Twice is funny. Three times it’s still smirk-worthy. By the tenth attempt, the bit is dead. Yet there’s also so much that doesn’t feel as fully developed. The lead villain played by Mel Gibson is given so little time to sneer and kill that he feels like more of an afterthought. Another black knight who feels sadly underused is Will Sasso, giving his all to do little more than take a sword to the brain.
Boss Level has its moments for being little more than a scattershot attempt at gritty Groundhog Day. Grillo gives such a film his all and the grand attempts at fiery fun are earnest enough to be admirable enough to be slathered in classic rock. All it really amounts to is a handful of pleasing scenes that play more like a Best-Hits album of quality kills and over-the-top thrills.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.