There’s been a fair few Groundhog Day-esque films in the past decade, what with Happy Death Day and its sequel, Palm Springs and Edge Of Tomorrow, all of which saw the protagonist having to live the same day over and over again until they learnt some important lesson and how to change, and I’ve got to say I’m a sucker for them. But despite sometimes being enormous fun, Boss Level attempts to try and be a mixture of comedy and serious drama, and seriously flounders when it comes to the latter.
Rather than showing us the first time the time loop occurred this jumps forward to the 139th version and a world weary voice over lets us know that boy is poor old former special forces soldier Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) fed up with dying all the time. Then it leaps back and gives us a best of montage of his various deaths, and the numerous people who are trying to ensure that he never finds out what the hell is going on, while Mel Gibson pops up to let us know that Roy’s wife died last night, with the suggestion being that it was no accident.
Seeing Roy die a sod load and in inventive ways at the beginning is often very funny, as he’s variously blown up, shot to death and decapitated among various other painful ways, but then it slows down after 13 minutes or so, I was hoping this might be the time loop version of Crank 2, but sadly not, as Roy visits a bar, gets drunk and explains how he never makes it past 12.47pm, how on every loop he’s always killed by that point. Then there’s some tepid nonsense with a flashback to him visiting his estranged scientist wife Jemma (Naomi Watts), where he has a long frosty conversation with her where it’s heavily hinted that she’s responsible for the time travel madness, and it’s all rather bland and annoying.
Even worse is some scenery chewing from her boss Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson) who tells a very long story about his time in Burma in the seventies working for the CIA, which Jemma is meant to find threatening, and it’s a dreary affair even if Gibson is hamming it up something dreadful. Roy also attempts to reconnect with his son, who doesn’t even know that Roy is his father, and all the fun of the opening ten minutes is a long distant memory by this point.
Thankfully it finally decides to return to being a madness filled action flick about forty minutes in, and continues to be so for the next half hour as it suddenly becomes enormously amusing again. The action scenes are smart and fairly original, Roy thinks he’s got everything worked out but is proven wrong over and over again, and the film became something I was really enjoying again, sure it’s preposterous in places, and just plain silly on occasion (a moment involving Adolf Hitler’s gun is particularly ridiculous), but it is extremely entertaining without any doubt.
If only it had continued along these lines this might be a rave review that was prepared to forgive its weaker moments earlier on, but in the final half an hour it’s largely a mix of bland drama with only the occasional amusing sequence, with Roy spending a sod load more time with Joe, and then it comes to a close with an idiotic ending which leaves a huge amount of questions unanswered, it’s supposed to be affecting and possibly even slightly profound, but I only found it to be frustrating and pretty stupid.
Performance wise Grillo is fine as the lead, though his narration is irritating and patronising on a level not seen since the final season of Dexter. Gibson is very over the top indeed and so as a villain he’s impossible to take seriously, while Naomi Watts is okay but a little wasted, and only Will Sasso as Gibson’s bodyguard Brett and some of the murderous individuals like Meadow Williams and Selina Lo come away deserving any acclaim acting wise.
With a stronger writer perhaps they could have merged the serious drama with deranged violence and made it work, and writers Chris Borey, Eddie Borey and Joe Carnahan (who also directs) deserve some credit for coming up with some really well choreographed action scenes. But the serious moments, the dramatic side, is full of cliché and tedium and sucks the joy out of the film completely and so it’s something I’d only recommend to die hard fans of the genre who are prepared to be irked by the ending.