Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Movie Review: "Spenser Confidential" (2020)

Director: Peter Berg
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

At least one thing is guaranteed in this crazy world of ours: Mark Wahlberg will always have a thriving career as a leading man so long as Peter Berg is directing movies. Many of the earlier collaborations between Berg and Wahlberg include films based on true stories, like Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor, and Patriots Day. We liked all of these titles despite them being a bit gung-ho and jingoistic, titles that were made to motivate audiences to collectively chant USA! USA!, but they are entertaining nonetheless. Lately, Berg and Wahlberg have been making fictional action flicks with the same undertones, but with much less success. Their latest collaboration is the Netflix original "Spenser Confidential" (2020), which we had no idea was based on a book series (shout-out to my grandma who used to read them and told us about this!). Wahlberg plays Spenser, which may sound like the name of a CPA or a software programmer, but really, he's just your typical tough guy Boston cop, ya know, the type of character he usually plays. Spenser has a strict moral code. He goes to prison for trying to weed out corruption from within the Boston police department after confronting his captain, which led to a rather public beatdown. The same day Spenser gets out of prison after serving five years, his crooked captain, Boylan (Michael Gaston), winds up dead in a bus yard. When the Boston P.D. tries to pin the crime on a cop that Spenser knows to be an honest, hardworking, straight-laced man, Spenser takes it upon himself to solve the murder and get to the bottom of this corruption in the B.P.D. He enlists the help of his old friend and trainer Henry (Alan Arkin) and his aspiring MMA fighter roommate Hawk (Winston Duke) to assist with the investigation.
Photo: In Netflix's original film "Spenser Confidential (2020), Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) and Hawk (Winston Duke) meet up with journalist Wayne Cosgrove (Marc Maron) to look at the evidence about Wonderland.
Photo: In Netflix's original film "Spenser Confidential (2020), Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) and Hawk (Winston Duke) meet up with journalist Wayne Cosgrove (Marc Maron) to look at the evidence about Wonderland.
"Spencer Confidential" (2020) desperately wants to be a primo action buddy comedy, but the action is both generic and lacking, and the comedy is mediocre at best. We weren't wowed by anything that happens action-wise, and the comedy is the same deadpan sarcasm we've seen Mark Wahlberg do for the last decade. There are a couple of solid jokes that got us laughing, but overall, the script is full of wisecracks where "old man yells at cloud" after getting out of prison because he doesn't understand non-dairy alternatives or "the cloud." The only moments of humor that really work come from Alan Arkin and Winston Duke, and maybe one zinger from a brief appearance by Post Malone. Iliza Shlesinger also stars as Spenser's on-again-off-again girlfriend Cissy, who plays up the bombastic Boston stereotype for 110 minutes. It's a shtick that's meant to be funny (and might be accurate according to Bostonians), but we thought it was supremely annoying.

Where "Spenser Confidential" (2020) truly disappoints is in its writing. Berg and writers Sean O'Keefe and Brian Helgeland fail to develop a meaningful connection and chemistry between Hawk and Spenser, the backbone of the film. In fact, it is so sloppily put together that Hawk has no real motives or purpose. That's our biggest complaint about this project: Winston Duke deserved so much better than the limited screentime he has here. Also, Spenser and Hawk's investigation is meant to be a mystery, but we know who the bad guy is as soon as they come into frame. C'mon, at least try to make it a bit less obvious. It's a throwback to the 80s where most cops in cinema were corrupt, and those who aren't corrupt have their hands tied by regulations and rules, which makes them inept. The only people who can do anything about the crimes afoot are renegades who have to bend or break the rules to get the job done. It's so cliche, and it might have been fine if the movie had done anything remotely distinctive, compelling, or outrageously entertaining to set itself apart from the hundreds of others titles just like it. It doesn't. Instead, it winds up being a rather boring, play-it-safe Netflix film with virtually no originality.
Photo: Mark Wahlberg and Post Malone star in Netflix's "Spenser Confidential."
Photo: Mark Wahlberg and Post Malone star in Netflix's "Spenser Confidential." (Image provided by Netflix)
Netflix's "Spenser Confidential" (2020) aspires to be a gritty action drama, but it's too poorly constructed and pulls too many shenanigans to be taken seriously. It also wants to be a buddy cop comedy, but its lazy writing and lack of a strong connection between Hawk and Spencer will almost assuredly make audiences not care about what happens to them. The best thing we can say about "Spenser Confidential" (2020) is that it's an entirely watchable, not completely miserable way to kill two hours if you are bored at home with nothing to do....which makes it pandemic perfect!

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
RT Rating: 41%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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