Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Spenser Confidential

Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke make amiable leads in this familiar and overlong yet enjoyable enough character/action thriller from producer/director Peter Berg, a master of the goofy form. 

Drawn very, very vaguely from Robert B. Parker’s books, this is Wahlberg’s fifth film for Berg, a filmmaker who gravitates towards flashy actioners (Hancock, Battleship) and painfully earnest, all-damn-American true stories (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriot’s Day). Believe it or not, it’s also his best.

The opening sequence has impulsive Boston cop Spenser (Wahlberg) arrive at the home of his Captain, the shonky and abusive Boylan (Michael Gaston), and beat the Hell out of him before Spenser’s pal and colleague Driscoll (Bokeem Woodbine) intervenes. Spenser serves five years in jail for assault and, just so we know we’re watching a blokey epic, he engages in a slightly spectacular library fight with some scumbag inmates shortly before his release.

Spenser gets out and is greeted by his boxing mentor and grumpy pal Henry (Alan Arkin, always welcome), who allows him to stay at his home, and it’s here that Spenser discovers that he must share a room with Henry’s giant student Hawk (Trinbagonian-American actor Winston Duke from Black Panther). The moment they meet they seriously hate each other, and therefore you just know that soon they’ll be teaming up and becoming besties while bashing the bad guys.

When Boylan and another officer are murdered, Spenser briefly becomes a suspect and, although he’s no longer in the force, he sets out to bring the perpetrators to justice, thereby uncovering such a thoroughgoing mass of rotten corruption in the Bostonian police ranks that you wonder why the real cops ever agreed to assist with this one’s production. And naturally Spenser and Hawk have each other’s backs, the 80something Henry is in the firing line and Spenser’s furious ex Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger) is roped in too, especially after they have wild sex in a men’s room to the tune of Foreigner’s Feels Like The First Time.

The sort of violent if dopey action saga you could really hate yourself in the morning for liking a lot, this is distinguished by pleasing work from Mark, Winston and Alan, some nimble character comedy and a few good thumping fight scenes, car chases and dog attacks(?). It also unfortunately features a series of villains notable for both their general nastiness – and their considerable stupidity.

Still, you could do worse, and this one’s worth a look one slow evening in the coming weeks and months. And yep, there are going to be more than a few.

Reviewer Rating

Spenser Confidential (MA) is now streaming on Netflix

DM Bradley

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