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Film / Boss Level

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Running out of time. And lives.
Boss Level is a 2021 action sci-fi film directed by Joe Carnahan. It stars Frank Grillo as an ex-soldier who is caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in which assassins are trying to kill him for unknown reasons from the very moment he wakes up each morning. Mel Gibson and Naomi Watts co-star.


  • The Cameo: Footballer Rob Gronkowski and former UFC champions Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans all have bit parts as assassins.
  • Carnival of Killers: The killers hunting Roy are a diverse bunch to say the least. They range from fairly normal with a few quirks (Pam's only odd trait is that she has Hitler's personal gun, and there's nothing unusual about Roy Number 2 aside from the fact he resembles Roy), to downright bizarre (Kaboom is a Mad Bomber with dwarfism, and Smiley is a hillbilly with rotten teeth who likes to harpoon his targets and drag them through the street behind his truck.)
  • Casting Gag:
    • Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans play brothers in the film. Jackson and Evans are both former MMA fighters who fought each other for the UFC belt. Their bout was particularly acrimonious, so it's ironic for them to be cast as allies.
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    • Mel Gibson is cast as the Big Bad who at one point sneeringly derides Democrats. Gibson is an infamous figure in Hollywood for his questionable behavior in his personal life and is also one of Hollywood's most outspoken conservatives.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The dental hygienist becomes a factor in the plot in the second act.
    • Dai Feng, introduced in the first act as a famous kung fu film star, becomes Roy's fencing tutor in the last act.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After bonding with Joe over the course of several loops, Roy discovers that the kid is one of Dynow's targets, meaning that Joe had been killed just as many times as Roy had. Roy gives up for a while, allowing himself to be murdered in his bed for several loops before getting his Heroic Second Wind.
  • The Dragon: Brett, who is Ventor's head of security and right-hand thug. Roy always has to deal with him before addressing Ventor.
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  • Dungeon Bypass: During his last attempt after Roy finds out that Jemma is still alive for 14 minutes from when he first wakes in the morning, he jumps aboard the helicopter that shoots up his apartment every morning and forces the pilot to fly back to Dynow which lets him take the roof entrance instead of taking the long way by driving there and shooting his way inside.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes over 250 attempts for Roy to save his family and stop Ventor's master plan.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Even if Roy manages to kill all the assassins, the Osiris Spindle will still blow up and unleash a massive shockwave of energy that destroys the entire planet later that day unless he figures out a way to prevent it.
  • Epic Fail: Even though Roy has memorized what happens early on in his day, he doesn't always remember every detail, and in later acts he has to resort to Trial-and-Error Gameplay in the knowledge that when he dies he will wake up and try again. These incidents include:
    • Dropping out of a fourth story window, missing the truck of sand, and getting run over by it.
    • Mistiming the arrival of the bus and getting sent through its windshield with glass in his face.
    • Trying and utterly failing to ram a car through the wall of the Dynow compound.
  • First-Person Smartass: Roy's running commentary dips into this frequently, especially in the beginning when he's over 100 attempts in and he's already bored with everything.
  • Foreshadowing: The dental hygienist says she hates teeth, which makes more sense when you learn that she was just a plant to get a tracking device put into Roy's tooth.
  • Gatling Good: The second assassin whom Roy has to fight each day is a guy in a helicopter firing a gatling gun at him. He ultimately uses the gun himself in the final act to mow down all the assassins at the same time when they're about to report in to Ventor early that morning.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Roy is stuck reliving a day where everyone seems to be trying to kill him. He repeats the day when he dies, which happens every day.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts after Roy has already died over 100 times and has memorized most of what his day will look like. The film eventually uses flashbacks for scenes taking place beforehand.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Roy's sword fight with Guan Yin is dripping with sexual aggression. He strokes her cheek as he toys with her and ultimately kills her by dipping her as if for a kiss and then impaling her instead.
  • Karma Houdini: We never see the dental hygienist suffer any repercussions for her role in the scheme.
  • Mad Bomber: Kaboom is a bomb expert.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Roy Pulver really pulverizes people.
    • The evil Dynow Labs sounds like "Die Now." They make Pulver die repeatedly throughout the film.
    • The Osiris Spindle references the myth of Osiris, who is brought back to life by his wife just like Roy is.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Roy takes an instant dislike to the proprietor of Third Gen and sneeringly asks if he has any kids to justify his interest in games. When the man says he has none "by choice," Roy quips, "Whose choice?"
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Discussed and defied. Roy reminds Guan Yin of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but even after he tries to shoot her with dual uzis, he still doesn't manage to hit her once before she kills him, forcing him to take sword lessons to beat her.
  • No Ending: When Roy saved his family and killed the villains, he pointed out the Osiris Spindle will eventually still destroy the world. Jemma said that Roy will need to go into the machine to reset his day one last time in order to break the time loop and stop the Osiris Spindle (If he fails in the next attempt, he dies for real). The movie ends right after Roy enters the machine. Nothing is explained how this actually stops the Osiris Spindle.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Ventor hires about a dozen assassins to kill one guy, including one in a helicopter with a minigun.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Brett's reaction to getting a sword jammed in the middle of his forehead is about a minute of stumbling and incoherent rambling before he falls over.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: When Roy first visits Third Gen, all the computer monitors he walks past develop severe static, foreshadowing the high-tech tracker implanted in his tooth.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the assassins are only known by the nickname Roy gives them because they either kill him or he kills them whenever they meet.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Around the second act, Roy figures out how to get the drop on the Quirky Miniboss Squad and starts taking them out using their own methods against them. Some examples shown on-screen:
    • He shoots Pam with her own gun.
    • He harpoons Smiley and drags him down the street behind his own tow truck.
    • He blows up Kaboom.
  • Professional Killer: Ventor hires a rogue's gallery of assassins to kill Pulver.
  • Psycho for Hire: Ventor specifically requests assassins outside of their usual network, some real lunatics.
  • Shown Their Work: The arcade specializing in 8-bit games is called "Third Gen," referencing the third generation of video games, which were 8-bit. We do, however, see mostly 16-bit video games in the set itself.
  • Special Guest: Michelle Yeoh has a small role as a famous female martial artist, essentially herself with a different name.
  • Take That!: For a game involving and referencing video games, the film takes a pretty obvious swipe at adult gamers by inviting mockery of the proprietor of an arcade.
  • Title Drop: Before Storming the Castle.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Roy discovers that he has a tracker in one of his teeth, and horrifies a countersurveillance expert by pulling out his molars one by one with a bottle of strong alcohol and a pair of pliers to search for it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In one of their confrontations, Ventor tries to paint himself as this to Roy, claiming that he wants to prevent such things like Adolf Hitler and 9/11.

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