Review: Mark Wahlberg phones his way through dismal 'Spenser Confidential'
Courtesy of Netflix
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg can’t seem to get enough of each other. From modest successes “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon” to the forgettable “Mile 22,” the duo are inseparable and ride or die no matter the quality of the picture. With their latest collaboration - “Spenser Confidential” - the two sink to an all time low, with their film consisting of 95% recycled material from every crooked cop flick in the book. At one point Whalberg’s character makes a crack to a guard that he should “Come up with new material” and it’s ironic because the film he’s headlining can’t seem too either. Every possible script cliché you can imagine, involving bad cops, buddy-troupes, and, of course, the city of Boston, are put on display in the eerily dismal “Spenser Confidential.” None of Berg and Wahlberg's projects have ever felt this cheap and lazy, but now they have Netflix’s deep pockets and they don’t have to care.
The film opens with Spenser, who has just spent five years behind bars for beating up his captain, trying to start over and make a quiet living as a truck driver. He’s got a personality that amounts to the classic Wahlberg glare, and he coasts through the film on the goodwill of his previous projects and he’s prodigal son statues in Boston. We know Spenser to be a good guy with solid ethics, because the man he almost decimated was a real dirtbag.
But when a chain of events sees that dirtbag killed in a nearby school parking lot, Spenser feels it was staged and a former police academy classmate - who was framed for the murder - is innocent. Spenser gets to uncovering the truth with the help of his new roommate Hawk (Winston Duke) - a soft spoken ex-con with an aspiration for the MMA profession. Duke - who you probably remember from “Black Panther” and “Us” - brings a certain spark to the underwritten role, which is primarily him yelling at Spenser and serving as his muscle.
The pair try to illuminate chemistry and occasionally score laughs, but as an action-comedy overall, “Spenser Confidential” never gels. The mystery is fairly pointless, and the constant needle drops that, among others, include Foreigners’ “Feels like the First Time” and Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” come so far out of left field, it feels like a different movie entirely. By the time machete-wielding drug traffickers showed up, I was ready to throw in the towel, though give rapper Post Malone some street cred for making his three minute cameo memorable. If the filmmakers are considering coming back for a sequel as “Spenser Confidential” suggests, perhaps they can take their own advice and come up with some better material.
Spenser Confidential is now steaming on Netflix