Review: Boss (2023)

There is no doubt that Bogdan Mirică is a stylish director, who takes a good amount of inspiration from the visual articulations of a certain kind of popular mainstream cinema. It worked reasonably well in Câini (2016), his debut feature, an inspired, if not always exciting Romanian version of No Country for Old Men. His follow-up, blandly titled “Boss”, is more miss than hit, a self-indulging “neo-noir” that talks a big talk, but is mostly devoid of substance.

Inspired by a true story, the movie follows Bogdan, a calculated and emotionally stunted ambulance driver who partakes in a seemingly successful heist, only to see it all start to fall apart after the fact. Bogdan tries to make sense of everything, taking risks he never wanted to take, while also struggling to appease his much younger, gorgeous girlfriend, presumably the reason for the whole criminal endeavour.

What I liked is that there’s style and flair in the composition and the shots and with its competent score, Mirică does conjure a specific feeling – a worthy one, even when it’s familiar to the point of caricature. Additionally, the plot structure was clever for the most part, unfolding at its own measured pace and maintaining suspense and mystery. Oh, and I also dug the poster design, which is what drew me to this more than the trailer.

But then the movie is too often a prosaic homage that falls very flat when it comes down to the characters and dialogue. Laurențiu Bănescu plays an inanely dry lead, dealing with a ludicrous relationship involving a capricious character done justice by Ioana Bugarin – I did like the femme fatale nuances she graced us with. It doesn’t help though that there is no chemistry between the two characters.

(As an aside, this made me think of R.M.N. (2022), which also featured a relationship between a clearly more successful female character and a mute-like, uncharismatic protector-type.)

And to add insult to injury, the exchanges between the lovers in Boss (like between most characters throughout the movie) are so heavy-handed it repeatedly made me roll my eyes so hard they almost fell out of their sockets.

I’ve never been a noir fan, because I’ve generally felt it to be a needlessly pretentious genre featuring self-important characters in bleak stories. But even by these standards, Boss was a let-down, culminating in a finale that’s twisty in unsatisfying ways, heavily featuring its ostentatiously pretentious dialogue.

It all left me with a bitter aftertaste. There’s room for these kind of movies and Mirică has the craftsmanship to provide brooding entertainment, but Boss never coalesces into a story worth engaging with. 5

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