On March 11, Boss Level, a new film by acclaimed action director and scriptwriter Joe Cairnahan (The Gray, “Smokin ‘Aces”, “Nark”), will finally reach cinemas. This is the story of how the tough commandos Roy (Frank Grillo) got stuck in a time loop, an action version of Groundhog Day, which is hinted at by the Russian title of the film – The Day of the Trigger. Below I will tell you why the picture is worth paying attention to even in 2021, after Palm Springs and Edge of the Future.
The Boss Level script was written back in 2010, when the Groundhog Day action movie seemed like an original idea. The fact that the film looks great even in modern conditions, withstanding any comparison, is the best proof of Cairnahan’s talent. First of all – as a scriptwriter.
I’m scared to imagine what Boss Level would look like in talentless writers like Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) or Derek Kolstad (John Wick). However, it is clear how: they can only savor the violence on the screen, in the second act they present us their own masturbatory fantasy in the form of the hero’s girlfriend, and in the third they suddenly start demanding empathy from us for a handsome actor and a beautiful actress just because they, they say, they love each other.
Like Deadpool or Wick, the film would have been quite successful with a fairly large category of viewers who are also not capable of empathy, empathy for the main character, for whom all this is nothing more than action figures making jokes and cutting each other into pieces.
Actually, this was the script for Boss Level from a couple of unknown authors until it fell into the hands of Joe Cairnahan – a great master, an experienced person and a real artist. In his hands, both the main character Roy and his beloved Gemma (Naomi Watts) have become living people with real problems, with a personal past and professional knowledge that is evident in every dialogue and action of the characters.
This is the highest class of script work – a concept that relies on a strong pair of heroes, heroes that are interesting even outside the context of a time loop, and an action that is needed not to spray the screen with blood, but so that the fantastic and emotional components finally form into one point – the event horizon, beyond which there are only the final credits.
At the same time, there is also enough action in the film. Roy is opposed by a team of motley killers in the spirit of “Smokin ‘Aces”, which will have to be killed several times, and Mel Gibson himself as the final boss. He, if without spoilers, will also have to be killed repeatedly.
This is already a question of Cairnahan’s talent as a director, which is not as outstanding as his talent for screenwriting. The fighting scenes were filmed creatively, cleanly and clearly, but the film does not have some kind of “show stopper”, grandiose fight or shootout, for which it would be worth revisiting. This is not even the “Edge of the Future”, not to mention the “Matrix” or at least “Hardcore” by Ilya Nayshuller. This is a representative of that rare category of action films, where the story and work with the heroes is more impressive than melee, explosions and firing on the screen. As a result, the film is a one-off – but a great pleasure to watch.
Despite all the jokes about 40-year-old men who are fond of retro video games, Boss Level very subtly transfers the gaming reality to the screen, including the most absurd moments of the design of virtual worlds. Here stealth, and mini-bosses, and peaks of difficulty got it.
The last third of the film is the hero’s attempts to complete the mission from Hitman or Metal Gear Solid by brute force, and the most ridiculous, but in its own way impressive moment is the girl with the sword, whom the commandos Grillo for some reason cannot kill from the Uzi pair. No, this moment can only be solved by pumping the character, or rather, even by “swinging” a certain skill.
Joe Cairnahan is a great gamer, he even worked on the film adaptation of Uncharted. Therefore, in addition to obvious borrowings from games, there are really deep observations. For example, in the same scene with a girl fencer, a complex BDSM relationship is shown that every person who is addicted to complex games with certain bosses is shown (mainly in From Software games). And the climax of the film in general is a hymn to speedruns, attempts to break game design in order to fulfill some special goals set for oneself.
At the same time, Cairnahan is not interested in the philosophical, existential questions that such a concept raises, willy-nilly. By the standards of movies about time loops, Boss Level is a very compressed and intimate work.
The hero takes about 200 numbered attempts for the entire “walkthrough” – there is no such horror that you feel in the best moments of Palm Springs or Edge of Tomorrow, when you realize that the character can repeat all these actions, not even a thousand and not hundreds of thousands, but millions or billions of times, that he literally could spend an eternity in the next Groundhog Day.
Against this background, the “Day of the Trigger” is as simple as two kopecks or the Russian “adaptation” of the original name: went into the loop, died many times, got out of the loop. First of all, the intellect, clarity of vision of the director-scriptwriter are impressive. It’s a smart movie that doesn’t require the viewer to turn off their brain while watching it. Brains were not inserted into human organisms to be turned off (under any circumstances), so the appearance of films in the spirit of Boss Level is a very pleasant event every time.