Frank Grillo repeats the goods in Hulu’s latest action flick.
It would be repetitive for me to list the actors who have been in time warp movies (like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow,” Jessica Rothe in “Happy Death Day,” or Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in “Palm Springs”), but maybe that’s the point when I review films of this particular genre. They’re supposed to keep reacting until the main protagonist gets the day right like a video game. In this case, Frank Grillo produces and stars in Hulu’s latest entry “Boss Level,” in which he plays a guy named Roy who knows the morning routine: killing his first assassin and blowing up the helicopter trying to kill him. But he also has to escape from his exploding apartment and land on a truck, so he can dodge more assassins. Half the time, he slaughters them, while the other half catches him by surprise.
Directed by Joe Carnahan, “Boss Level” is an aggressive and wickedly funny thrill ride that allows Grillo to play the game with attitude and versatility.
The villain Roy is after is the cigar-smoking Colonel Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson), who murders his scientist ex-wife Jemma (Naomi Watts). The good people in his loop include his biological son (Rio Grillo), a Chinese bartender (Ken Jeong), and a Chinese sword master (Michelle Yeoh); and the bad ones include the sword assassin Guan Yin (Selina Lo), who always says this every time she slaughters her victims: “I am Guan Yin and I did this,” and Ventor’s head of security (Will Sasso), who is tougher than he looks.
As you might expect in a time loop movie, the main protagonist must solve the mystery of how to get out of it, and he finds out there are reasons for his Live-Die-Repeat routine.
Ventor is the most effective villain, and Gibson plays him with a strong notion, while his henchmen just shoot to kill with not much personalities, and I did get tired of Guan Yin saying: “I am Guan Yin and I did this” over and over again. But “Boss Level” isn’t about these guys. It’s about one man, who is dangerously and excitingly played by Grillo, and who can learn from his mistakes on how to survive the day, but he can also learn the truth behind it all and figure out the solution. I won’t spoil the whole story, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Last year, I complained that “The Hunt” cared more about the violence and murders than it did on the people Hilary Swank’s character was after, which is why it was on my list of the worst films of 2020. “Boss Level,” however, is nowhere near as wasted as that. It has bullets, explosions, swords, pliers, and blood; and they all handled in comical and mean ways. It looks like a video game movie and acts like a video game movie, but it’s not based on a video game. There’s actually a story inside, and the execution pays off. But mostly, the movie is fun, and should keep Hulu streamers at the edge of their couches or beds, or whatever they prefer to watch their movies on.
Streaming Tomorrow on Hulu