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Boss Level, Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Joe Carnahan (Sci Fi Movie Review)

Boss Level, Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Joe Carnahan (Sci Fi Movie Review)
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PLOT: A man finds himself reliving a day in which he is relentlessly pursued by heavily armed assassins over and over, and the situation has something to do with the mysterious project his ex-wife has been working on.

REVIEW: Nine years have passed since director Joe Carnahan first revealed that he was planning to make a film he described as "Groundhog Day as an action movie", a project that was titled Continue at the time. Carnahan was hoping that the film would star Frank Grillo, who he had just worked with on The Grey, but in those early days he apparently ran into some resistance, since Grillo wasn't high profile enough. With roles in things like two Captain America movies, Avengers: Endgame, and two Purge movies, Grillo's star has been rising steadily over the years, so now we have Continue with Grillo in the lead, just like Carnahan wanted, except now it's called Boss Level.

Grillo plays ex-Delta Force soldier Roy Pulver, who has found himself stuck in a time loop, much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day or Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day or Andy Samberg in Palm Springs. In Roy's case, he's being forced to relive a day in which he is, for no apparent reason, being hunted through the city by a whole bunch of oddball assassins (shades of Carnahan's Smokin' Aces there). The attacks begin as soon as Roy opens his eyes to see man swinging a machete at him. Within seconds, a helicopter is hovering outside his window so the gunner can use a minigun to destroy his apartment. Moving through the day, Roy will encounter two women who chase him down in a car, German twins (one of them Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson from Carnahan's The A-Team), a guy whose method of murder is to drag people behind his truck, a little person who likes to plant bombs, and a sword-wielding woman who proudly lets everyone know her name is Guan Yin (played by Selina Lo).

Boss Level Joe Carnahan Frank Grillo Mel Gibson

Carnahan packed a whole lot of movie into Boss Level's 100 minutes. Roy has to live through this insane, action-packed day over two hundred times, trying to figure out how to play it perfectly so that hopefully he'll be able to escape the loop. He dies over two hundred times, and every time he dies he wakes up with that machete coming toward his head all over again. Since we see Roy go through the day again and again, that means there are a whole lot of fun action sequences to see in here... but Carnahan isn't interested in just throwing action and crazy visuals at us. Not only does Boss Level have a great sense of humor in the midst of all of this, it also has a ton of heart.

When he's not dodging bullets and bombs, Roy steals the chance to spend some heartwarming quality time with his young son Joe (played by Grillo's own son Rio), a kid he hasn't known because he was always away on Delta Force missions. Joe's mother is scientist Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts), who has been working on a mysterious project called The Osiris Spindle at a company called Dynow. Clearly the situation Roy is in has something to do with Jemma's work, but what is it? Jemma can't tell him, because she has been murdered by her boss - Mel Gibson as Colonel Clive Ventor.

Gibson doesn't have a whole lot of screen time in Boss Level, but Carnahan certainly didn't waste the time he did have with the action icon. Gibson, who plays Ventor as an arrogant dirtbag, was given a couple monologues to deliver, and he made a meal of them; the one about an experience he had in Burma in 1979 is especially fascinating. Anyone expecting an epic showdown between Grillo and Gibson should temper those expectations, the biggest fights are between Grillo and different characters, but Gibson makes for a terrific villain even if he's only directly involved with a little bit of the action.

Boss Level Joe Carnahan Frank Grillo Michelle Yeoh

Another action icon in the cast is Michelle Yeoh, who has a very small role as a sword fighter that Roy becomes acquainted with along the way. It's kind of surprising that Yeoh has such a small role, but it's cool to see her in this nonetheless. "Day After Day" by Badfinger is playing during much of the time Grillo and Yeoh have together, one example of the awesome soundtrack Carnahan assembled for this movie. The film also features songs from the likes of Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Chambers Brothers, Roy Orbison, The Gap Band, and Black Flag, among others.

Boss Level is a really fun movie, a treat for action fans that's filled with chases, gunfire, explosions, decapitations, laughs, touching moments, strong performances, excellent music, and general mayhem. This is the sort of movie I wish I could have watched with my late father, who I watched many a Mel Gibson action movie with over the years. Carnahan and Grillo put so much heart into this movie, including an ending dedication to Grillo's late mother, that it feels right to end this review on that sort of wistful note.

Boss Level will be available to watch on the Hulu streaming service as of March 5th.
 

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