Boss Level VOD

The Groundhog Day premise returns in Boss Level & more new VOD films

A middling sci-fi actioner, a half-baked parenting drama and a winning drag dramedy are out on VOD.

VOD Roundup is a weekly feature looking at films being released across video-on-demand platforms.

Boss Level

Boss Level VOD
Boss Level, starring Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson and Naomi Watts

I suppose there are two schools of thought on Joe Carnahan’s lifting of the premise of Groundhog Day for his latest effort, Boss Level. Some might think it’s a travesty to pilfer an absolute classic like this one, especially in the wake of Doug Liman’s similarly themed Edge of Tomorrow. I, on the other hand, am absolutely okay with the idea, chiefly because Groundhog Day has such an incredible premise that it feels unfair that we should only get to witness it within the confines of Groundhog Day. That having been said, Carnahan’s film feels a little anonymous under the scores of overwritten lore and tough-guy voiceover — not something that can usually be said about the rest of Carnahan’s tough-guy oeuvre.

Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) is a former special agent who finds himself reliving the same day over and over. One that opens with a mysterious blonde (Annabelle Wallis) in his bed, a dude trying to kill him with a sword and a machine-gun-outfitted helicopter outside his apartment trying to tear him to shreds. As Pulver explores the limitations of that same day (including scenarios that inevitably end in his gruesome death), he discovers that the loop might have something to do with his ex-wife Jemma (Naomi Watts) and her work for a mysterious techno-villain (Mel Gibson, sleepier than he’s been lately).

I’ve liked most of Carnahan’s work so far. Though he seems to be stuck in a world where it’s perpetually 2003 and Maxim magazine’s sense of humour is as cutting-edge as it gets, his films (Smokin’ Aces, Stretch, The A-Team) have a certain gleeful go-for-broke energy that operates as a more-than-passable stylistic signature. Less so here: Boss Level is overwritten and overexplained, having seemingly backed itself into a corner that it attempts to work its way out of through cursory video-game aesthetics. It’s pretty fun to watch Grillo get killed over and over again by a series of Carnahanesque supporting villains (a bomb-dispensing dwarf, a pirouetting Chinese assassin who says her name every time she cuts his head off) but the narrative takes its toll before long.

Boss Level is on VOD now. Watch the trailer here:

Boss Level, directed by Joe Carnahan

Jump, Darling

Jump, Darling VOD
Thomas Duplessie and the late Cloris Leachman star in Jump, Darling

Though Phil Connell’s Ontario-shot indie Jump, Darling ticks many (perhaps all) of the boxes that define it as your average gotta-find-myself dramedy, it’s the rare film that manages to somehow transcend its inherent limitations to create something genuinely moving. There’s absolutely nothing here that you haven’t seen before (save for a sex scene scored to the NFB shanty “Log Driver’s Waltz”) but Jump, Darling is just slightly more direct and more probing than its ilk. 

Thomas Duplessie is Russell, a wannabe actor who has instead decided to pursue drag — a decision that isn’t particularly well-received by his wealthy, buttoned-up boyfriend (Andrew Bushell). Distraught by the direction his life is headed in, Russell goes out to the Ontarian countryside where his grandmother (Cloris Leachman, in her final role) lives alone. First wanting to simply take money from his increasingly senile grandmother, Russell instead reconnects with her when he sees that her life is becoming increasingly isolated and difficult. 

It’s the logline to every single mismatched-buddy dramedy of the last 20 years, but Connell brings a refreshing amount of frankness and raw emotion to the proceedings that absolutely elevate the material’s logical limitations. Nothing’s black-and-white in Jump, Darling, and Connell wisely opts to make the characters complex and somewhat unlikeable in spots. By steering clear of life-affirming shortcuts, Connell creates a surprisingly nuanced portrait of loneliness and alienation that’s funny and moving, but never miserable or self-pitying. On paper, it has all the clichés of the low-budget Canadian indie, but in practice, it works.

Jump, Darling is available on VOD now. Watch the trailer here:

Jump, Darling, directed by Phil Connell

Rain Beau’s End

Rain Beau's End VOD
Janelle Snow and Amanda Powell in Rain Beau’s End

There’s something that feels borderline parodic about Rain Beau’s End, an American independent production that’s being released exclusively on the LesFlicks streaming platform. It’s a sincere, well-meaning drama about a lesbian couple who exist at exact opposite ends of the social and political spectrum (one is a human-rights activist, vegan yogi who owns a café named Sappho’s, the other a high-powered attorney who loves to flash her $3,000 handbags and has her eye on public office) who adopt a child they name Rain Beau. Though they’re loving, caring parents, Rain Beau (who is sometimes heard but never seen throughout the film) starts exhibiting violent antisocial behaviour rather early on in his life.

Rain Beau’s End spans over 20 years of its protagonists’ lives, from Rain Beau’s diagnosis as having XYY syndrome to his difficult childhood and adolescence. Though I don’t really know enough about the creative team to say, it certainly feels autobiographical and concerned with giving a rounded portrait of a rough, emotionally fraught situation. For much of its runtime, Rain Beau’s End very nearly makes up for its obvious shortcomings (bland photography, didactic dialogue, static blocking that makes many of its heaviest scenes feel like after-school specials) through sheer earnestness and force of will. Despite an overall cheap sheen that I’ve mainly seen in “faith-based” productions, I found myself reasonably involved in these characters’ lives and eager to see where the film would take them… until a thoroughly half-baked third-act twist eroded pretty much all of the good will I had.

Rain Beau’s End is interesting in that, despite its hard-coded left-wing stance, it goes through essentially all of the motions, facile shortcuts and corny moralizing of a film made by the exact opposite of the political and social spectrum. The filmmakers clearly have all the best intentions in the world, but Rain Beau’s End is a pretty clear example of how having its heart in the right place isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all.

Rain Beau’s End is available now via LesFlicks. Watch the trailer here:

Rain Beau’s End, directed by Tracy Wren

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