For a while now actor Frank Grillo has been on the verge of becoming a breakout star. He’s done it the hard way – starring in B-Grade action flicks that go straight to streaming, having a fairly major part in a minor franchise like The Purge and of course playing a villain in the Marvel universe. Now though with new sci-fi action flick Boss Level Grillo finally manages to take that well-earned step of being a film’s leading man.
Directed by Joe Carnahan (The Grey), Boss Level sees Grillo play retired Special Forces Officer Roy Pulver who has found himself trapped in a time loop that sees him wake up every day next to a mystery blonde before being attacked in his apartment by a machete-wielding man and then a helicopter opens fire at him.
Should he make it through them he then finds himself being hunted down by a group of elite assassins, including the sword-expert Guan Yin (Selina Lo – The Debt Collector). When one of them eventually kills him he finds himself waking back up and living the same day all over again.
Each day Roy tries to put together the pieces of the puzzle to work out what is happening, and that intensifies when the cruel Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson – Braveheart) informs him that the woman he loves, scientist Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts – The Impossible), is dead – and strongly alludes that he did it.
Boss Level is a fun ride from start to finish. The screenplay which sees the Borey Brothers (Open Grave) team up with Carnahan is inventive and creative despite using the same time loop theme that has worked so well over the years for films like Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day. The video game vibe that Carnahan and his team manage to bring to the film also takes the story to the next level as the intriguing mystery element of the film intertwines with brilliant stunt work and some amazing fight sequences.
So many action movies these days think that over-the-top stunts can overcome a weaker-than-average script, but that certainly isn’t the case here. The screenplay here is top notch and the mystery element comes to the fore as Roy crosses paths with the likes of Dai Feng (Michelle Yeoh – Tomorrow Never Dies) and Chef Jake (Ken Jeong – Community), who help put together the jigsaw pieces to solve what is exactly going on. Even the sci-fi element of the film goes to the extreme and works if you don’t think too much about it.
Grillo really embraces the opportunity to shine and he becomes a true action hero, the type of action hero that many of us grew up watching in the 1980s and 1990s. Whether it means him jumping off a building, being thrown from a moving car and hanging off a helicopter, Grillo does it with complete ease – and unlike some action heroes he also has the acting ability to back it up.
The fact that he can also pull off dramatic and touching scenes alongside Naomi Watts and Rio Grillo (who plays his son Joe in the film) shows that Grillo has what it takes to move to the forefront of action stars in modern-day cinema.
Added to Grillo’s performance are the performances of the main ensemble around him: Mel Gibson shines as the unrelenting villain, Ken Jeong again shows his comic genius while Michelle Yeoh and Selina Lo’s fight sequences are out of this world. Then there is of course Naomi Watts, who doesn’t let the fact that she is in an action film keep her from performing at her A-Game.
As a general rule Joe Carnhahan’s movies can be hit or miss. For every movie he makes that is as brilliant as The Grey, he makes a dud like The A-Team, but here Carnahahn is onto a winner. Here he has delivered a creative action sci-fi that is destined to become a cult classic.
Boss Level opens in Phuket cinemas on Mar 4 and is for an adult audience.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus