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Hollywood Insider Boss Level Review, Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts, Mel Gibson

Photo: ‘Boss Level’/Hulu

Directed by Joe Carnahan, ‘Boss Level‘ follows the retired special forces soldier’s life, Roy Pulver, portrayed by Frank Grillo. He is targeted and murdered by unknown hitmen causing a time loop where Pulver is set to relive the day he is murdered repeatedly. With every day Pulver relives, he is murdered by professional assassins; from a Chinese woman with a sword, German bald men, Latinas in a minivan, a hillbilly with a tow truck, a dwarf with a sticky bomb, or even a replica of Pulver himself; each day he is hunted by this strange but canny crew of killers without knowing why.

With over 200 attempts of trying to figure out the truth of who and why he is being targeted, all while learning how to replicate his days with improvements; his ex-wife and scientist Jemma Wells portrayed by Naomi Watts, and the suspicious Colonel Clive Ventor portrayed by Mel Gibson might have something to do with Pulver’s never-ending death. 

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‘Boss Level’ = ‘Groundhog Day’ Mixed With Action and Sci-Fi

For the past few years, filmmakers have been in majority favor of creating their versions of storylines consisting of flawed main characters revisiting days of their past with films such as ‘Happy Death Day,’ ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ ‘The Endless,’ ‘Palm Springs,’ or ‘Russian Doll;’ reliving days that have already occurred seems to be a popular subject. For some time loops, the story is purposefully created to bring suspense or horror to audiences with the fear of never escaping a murderer or an inevitable death most depicted in the ‘Happy Death Day’ films. Although, other time loop films are for the purpose of the flawed main character to fix or learn from a past experience in order to better themselves or, in some cases, “save the world from doom” most depicted in ‘Edge of Tomorrow.’ 

Time loops and time travel have been around for the majority of the existence of filmmaking. Still, the idea took off in American filmmaking with Harold Ramis’ 1993 comedy ‘Groundhog Day’ starring Bill Murray (‘Lost in Translation’), Andie MacDowell (‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape’), and more. Murray’s character, Phil, is a flawed weatherman who is set to relive a day to find self-evaluation within himself to change who he is for the better. A take on Ebenezer Scrooge’s self-evaluation and discovery in ‘A Christmas Carol‘ but without the visits from past, present, and future mentor ghostly figures. ‘Boss Level’ is a comedic take on the time loop idea and self-discovery but with over-the-top violence and the addition of science fiction

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At no point did the comedy feel over-done simply because Grillo’s performance was worthwhile. As Pulver is pulling out his teeth in the diner’s bathroom while a technology nerd watches in disbelief and horror, he remarks about how the tooth will “grow back.” Or the moment in which he finds out the Latina hitwoman who had been killing him day-in day-out had been doing it with Adolf Hitler’s gun, he remarks in disgust and murders her for “the jews.” I could recall an abundance of scenes of Pulver’s comedy that quite miraculously made me laugh out loud in real life. Yes, I honestly did “lol.” 

You Will Love or You Will Hate

With a smaller inventory of directing works than most, Joe Carnahan’s previous works include thrillers such as ‘Narc‘ or ‘The Grey,’ both films that are heavily targeted towards dramatics, emotion, and raw acting portrayals. Carnahan’s more action-oriented films include ‘The A-Team,’ or ‘Smokin’ Aces,’ both films that stylistically connect with his directing style for ‘Boss Level’ with the action, comedy, and adventure. 

For Frank Grillo, the role of Roy Pulver was a great chance to exemplify his experience in action films and showcase his comedic skills, which were considerably great. For Grillo, filmmakers find his appearance best fit for supporting roles in films such as in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ But, for me, I know Grillo best from ‘The Purge‘ sequels as the cunning and talented hitman who fights against those designing the haunting night of stealing, murdering, and torture. The most exemplifying film that has gained him attention from critics was Jing Wu’sWolf Warrior 2,’ which is not spoken amongst the American general public, which is a missed opportunity for Grillo to show his talents.

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Truly, Grillo is an underrated action actor but more so an underrated actor in general, and I think we are missing opportunities to see him in dramas, romances, etc. There are moments in ‘Boss Level’ where this fatherly, gentle side of Grillo comes out, and to calmly say, his acting performance left me with a puppy-eyed face as he gently comforts and adores his son, Joe, portrayed by Rio Grillo. This hint on a comedic take for ‘Boss Level’ is a start in showing the audience, and I hope filmmakers see Grillo’s potential and take a chance with him as he has proved himself to be a strong actor already. 

While the storyline fades in and out from time to time in the film, Grillo does a great job playing the comedic father and ex-soldier. For Naomi Watts, the role feels a bit out of place for her usual take on acting. While still good, it just does not feel like “home” for Watts and more so a casual acting job to have some fun with rather than taken seriously. Mel Gibson, while not a top choice for the general public with his political beliefs, racism, and antisemitism, does his job at portraying the role as he should, which even comes off as comedic as his character speaks on his distaste for race and liberals. For consideration, it might have made a more impactful choice to cast Liam Neeson, an actor Carnahan has worked with over the years, to cast as Colonel Clive Ventor.

In ‘Boss Level’ itself, Pulver’s son notes that he is like Liam Neeson’s character in the ‘Taken‘ series because of his intelligence in murdering murderers. This choice might have offered the film a strength that lacked in being taken seriously rather than a film you might watch from time to time for a space filler. With Grillo’s strong performance, the film itself is a win, in my opinion, but it could have been just that much better had he had the same strength coming from the opposing force. 

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Overall, I enjoyed watching ‘Boss Level,’ even though it was primarily due to Frank Grillo’s fantastic performance. Truthfully, I adore this man and what he brings to the screen with comedic timing and physicality when performing fighting scenes. Grillo held his end of the bargain with the hostile forces that were the casting choices for the opposing forces, if not holding up ‘Boss Level’ entirely to make it worth the consideration I would even be giving it. While the ending of the film had me rewinding to see if I had blinked for too long because I am dumbfounded that it had ended that way, to begin with, Grillo’s performance still makes me give props to the film. I would more than likely watch it again to experience his comedy. 

Where To Watch ‘Boss Level’

While there was an initial release for limited screening on February 11, 2020, ‘Boss Level’ releases for streaming in Iceland and the USA on March 5, 2021, available for watching through the streaming platform HULU

Where To Find The Stars

In the process of post-production, Joe Carnahan can next be seen as the director for 2021’s ‘Cop Shop,’ starring Frank Grillo, Gerard Butler, Toby Huss, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Cop Shop,’ “A small-town police station becomes the unlikely battleground between a professional hitman, a smart female rookie cop, and a double-crossing conman who seeks refuge behind bars with no place left to run.”

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Releasing on March 12, 2021, Frank Gillo can next be seen in Edward Drake’sCosmic Sin,’ alongside Bruce Willis, Brandon Thomas Lee, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Cosmic Sin,’ “Seven rogue soldiers launch a preemptive strike against a newly discovered alien civilization in the hopes of ending an interstellar war before it starts.”

Expected in 2021, Frank Gillo and Naomi Watts can next be seen in James DeMonaco’sOnce Upon a Time in Staten Island,’ alongside Bobby Cannavale, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Once Upon a Time in Staten Island,’ “Plot unknown. Described as a coming of age family drama set in the summer of 1982 on Staten Island, New York.”

Also expected in 2021, Mel Gibson can next be seen in Tim Kirkby’sLast Looks,’ alongside Morena Baccarin, Charlie Hunnam, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Last Looks,’ “A disgraced ex-cop seeks solace by moving to the woods, but his quiet life comes to an end when a private eye recruits him to investigate a murder.” In the process of post-production, Mel Gibson can also be seen in Mark Neveldine’sPanama,’ alongside Cole Hauser, Charlie Weber, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Panama,’ “An ex-marine is hired by a defense contractor to travel to Panama to complete an arms deal. In the process, he becomes involved with the U.S. invasion of Panama, and learns an important lesson about the true nature of political power.”

Expected in 2022, Naomi Watts can be seen in Michal Englert and Malgorzata Szumowska’sInfinite Storm,’ alongside Billy Howle, Sophie Okonedo, and more. As said on IMDb about “Follow one woman’s journey for self-discovery and turns into a harrowing tale of survival.”

By Isabella Brownlee

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