Review: ‘Boss Level’s’ time-loop action doesn’t get old
If you enjoyed “Palm Springs” or “Groundhog Day” but thought, “You know what these need? Way more f-bombs and graphic violence,” then Hulu’s new time-loop actioner, “Boss Level” may be for you. It’s not as intense as, say, “Edge of Tomorrow,” but there’s plenty of awesome death for those into that kind of thing — most of it happening to Frank Grillo’s lead character.
Grillo plays Roy, an ex-Delta Force member who finds himself waking up in bed with a lady — only to face an attacker with a machete — again. And again. And again. The “What is happening?” part is skipped; he’s already over the feeling of déjà mort violemment, unenthusiastically going through the fighting motions. His voice-over explains he has no idea what’s going on, he’s just trying to get further into the day than he did last time before being killed. You know, as in a video game.
Helping Roy die is a wide array of colorful assassins (“Freaks,” as bad guy Ventor, played by Mel Gibson, requests when ordering their services) armed with guns, bombs, rocket launchers and most entertainingly, with swords (wielded by Selina Lo as Guan Yin). Roy eventually concludes that his scientist ex-wife, Jemma (Naomi Watts), was working on some sort of MacGuffin that trapped him in the loop and will eventually cause the end of the world if he doesn’t, you know, win.
“Boss Level” is a lot of fun. It confirms Grillo as an action hero who can act — the Marvel Cinematic Universe folks have to be slapping their foreheads that they wasted him on (now-dead) villain Crossbones. He handles the big-time fighting and the quieter moments of personal catharsis equally well. It’s easy to see why Grillo signed on as a producer: It’s a showcase role for him and his very particular set of skills. Among those skills should be listed the ability to make the “personal growth” stretch of the film seem organic rather than obligatory. His quieter scenes aren’t simply perfunctory.
Director and cowriter Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces,” “The Grey”) and company seem to be having a whale of a time, acknowledging conventions of the genre with bloody winks. Even the music supervisor gets in on the act, clearing theme-appropriate tunes such as “Long Time” and “Day After Day.” The cast includes folks you’re glad to see show up, such as Ken Jeong and Michelle Yeoh. There’s even a funny cameo for Tom Brady’s BFF, NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski.
It’s written with obvious fondness for time-loop adventures, action movies and video games. Though it opens with a questionable joke during a carjacking, the humor is generally easy to enjoy. There’s even a Nazi-referencing scene that should get cheers and laughs for the right reasons. The action is more gonzo than the aforementioned “Edge of Tomorrow,” with an eye more toward a good time than tension.
“Boss Level” takes a well-worn gag and injects energy, showing the genre is still a game worth playing.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Streaming exclusively on Hulu March 5.
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