A bit of “Guns Akimbo”, a small pinch of “Deadpool” and a good dash of “… Groundhog Day” – Joe Carnahan’s action film, which is only released for home cinema in this country BOSS LEVEL draws on many well-known ideas without having any of its own. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Boss Level (USA 2021)
Former Delta Force member Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) has a big problem – he is stuck in a time loop: every day he is murdered by assassins in a different way. Sometimes he gets shot, blown up, beheaded or stabbed and then the same day starts over again. When Roy discovers clues to a secret government project that could solve his death, a race against time begins in which he not only has to find the head of the secret program, the powerful Colonel Ventor (Mel Gibson), and escape the killers on his heels, but also has to save his family so that there can be a tomorrow for him…
Today it is hardly possible to quantify exactly in which year Hollywood introduced the well-known premise of the time loop in which one or more people are involuntarily trapped and have to find their way out of it again since Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day”. rediscovered himself. The fact is that in recent years not one has gone by without at least one other filmmaker trying to give this idea a breath of fresh air. Festival favorites like “Palm Springs,” for example, prove that there are still enough opportunities to put your own stamp on this film genre, which has long since become a subgenre; And posts like “Love Wedding Repeat” that it so It’s not easy after all. While we would like to quickly recommend the Amazon Prime insider tip “Sixteen Hours of Eternity” as probably the most current time loop representative, director Joe Carnahan adds (“The Gray – Among Wolves”) the premise revolves around an absolutely obvious plot: the world of video games, in which a repeated “Game Over” in a particularly tricky section can sometimes feel like a time loop. But even though his latest film is called “Boss Level” and some of its audiovisual presentation – from the way some of the fight scenes are staged to the indications of how many attempts to survive the protagonist is currently making – is clearly reminiscent of a video game world, This stylistic focus is a deception. There are cross-references to various gaming quirks and characters, but in the end “Boss Level” is just another “action film with a time loop”.
Roy (Frank Grillo) comes face to face with Colonel Ventor (Mel Gibson).
And one who cheerfully collects the majority of his ideas from other films of a similar nature. The giant Frank Grillo (“Avengers: Endgame”) embodies the main character Roy Pulver as a “Deadpool” incarnation who is now extremely annoyed by the constant repetition and comments on all events with a (pseudo-) cool, smug voice-over. Even the USA dubbing voice is identical. At the beginning of “Boss Level” this approach is still pleasing. In many time loop films, the humorous highlights are those scenes in which the monotony takes over the people stuck in time and this is followed by either rebellion or sheer resignation. “Boss Level” is not the first film to open with such an act of defiance (“Sixteen Hours of Eternity,” for example, worked according to the same principle at the beginning), but it definitely starts with a highlight; When Roy Pulver, unnerved, eliminates all of his enemies, no matter how brutal, and no amount of brutal murder causes his adrenaline levels to skyrocket, simply because he’s already been through all of this over 100 times, you immediately feel pity for Roy. But Pulver’s bored attitude turns into the opposite at some point, when the emphasized irony no longer tries to hide the actual helplessness, but it slowly becomes clear that this Roy Pulver has no relevant characterization whatsoever apart from his being stuck in a time loop.
“Pulver’s bored attitude turns into the opposite at some point when the emphasized irony no longer tries to conceal the actual helplessness, but it slowly becomes apparent that this Roy Pulver has no relevant characterization whatsoever apart from his being stuck in a time loop.”
As the film progresses, Roy trudges from one striking scene to the next when he meets his estranged son again for the first time in a long time, reconciles with his quarreling wife and thus experiences a standard catharsis between the numerous, sometimes brutally staged action scenes. That by Joe Carnahan and the brothers Eddie and Chris Borey (“Open Grave”) The written script always only reveals the background information about the supporting characters that is relevant to the progression of the story, although it saves the film from any gaps (in plain language: “Boss Level” has a tremendous narrative pace in its 94 minutes), but prevents it also that the events affect you emotionally in some way. It would have been easy to draw Roy Pulver’s environment just a touch more deeply. Especially since “Boss Level” doesn’t skimp on flashbacks anyway. But in favor of a (unfortunately not all that surprising) twist, Joe Carnahan simply avoids parts of the story a little too much. And so the plot of “Boss Level” is primarily useful, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to root for the characters or otherwise become emotionally attached to what’s happening.
What’s the deal with the mysterious Jenna (Naomi Watts)?
Now, high-concept action films, like “Boss Level,” usually have their strengths elsewhere than in the detailed development of their characters. But where films like “Guns Akimbo” due to their Gaga premise “What if a man’s weapons were fused directly to his body?”, which were able to convince the “John Wicks” of this world thanks to their outstanding fight choreography or an “Edge of Tomorrow” due to its well-thought-out, internally coherent script, “Boss Level” has a little bit of everything and nothing quite. Cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz (“The Gunman”) provides a pleasant overview even in the most hectic moments, but the close combat choreographies do not stand out aesthetically. This also applies to the look as a whole, which is primarily noticeable due to its lifeless pallor. The neon green text panels, which keep the audience informed about the number of previous survival attempts, seem like foreign bodies because, with the exception of a few first-person tracking shots, the creative design of “Boss Level” has nothing to do with the audiovisual gimmicks of modern video games. And running gags like this one, in which a character says exactly the same sentence after every kill, are unfortunately in short supply. However, when there are direct references to well-known game classics in the dialogue, you can’t shake the feeling that “Boss Level” was originally intended to take place entirely in a computer world. But until the end, you never really know what the nature and therefore the rules of this world are.
“The neon green text panels that keep the audience informed about the number of previous survival attempts seem like foreign bodies because, with the exception of a few first-person tracking shots, the creative design of “Boss Level” has nothing to do with the audiovisual gimmicks of modern video games. “
The same applies to the internal coherence regarding the time loop. While every film lover certainly has their own preferences when it comes to time travel and time loop logic, the good films in this genre are particularly noticeable because the makers have internalized the rules of their own world. Meanwhile, in “Boss Level” there are blank spaces left in some important moments or characters act completely absurdly because a logical reaction to an event would probably slow down the film too much. Compensating for this with characters like Naomi Watts (“Castle of Glass”) Jenna is unnecessarily made into a secret, even though her intentions are understood from the first second, the tension can only be maintained to a limited extent. At least Frank Grillo remains even in the face of Mel Gibson (“Daddy’s Home 2”) embodied, bearded supervillain steadfast. And the open ending also does the film better than many of the script decisions in the 90 minutes that precede it.
Conclusion: If “Boss Level” doesn’t boil down the ideas of various other films on a solid level, this variation of the time loop film unfortunately has little to offer that is appealing apart from a committed Frank Grillo. And the gaming superstructure is more irritating than helpful – for a long time we don’t know what kind of world we’re actually supposed to be in here.
“Boss Level” is available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc from April 23rd.