Directed by: Peter Berg
Written by: Sean O’Keefe & Brian Helgeland
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine
Actor/Director pairings have shown the fruits of the height of artistic collaboration. At times, it helps define each of their careers as the combination helps bring the best from each other. Every great director seems to have an actor that appears in several of their films. Spenser Confidential shows the fifth film directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, and I hope it becomes the last.
After getting released from prison due to assaulting his commanding officer, Spenser (Mark Wahlburg) plans to leave Boston and move to Arizona. He gets drawn into staying in his hometown after his former commanding officer gets brutally murdered and it appears that a good cop has been framed for it.
It’s almost impressive to create a film so incompetent in simple filmmaking and storytelling that it leaves you baffled why talented people chose to carry on with the project. Oh, I figured it out, it was the paycheck. Spenser Confidential tries to tell this story of a noble guy trying to take on the police force but does so in such an uninteresting way that I knew it would be something only Mark Wahlburg would take on.
The narrative begins by detailing why Spenser assaulted his commanding officer, which arose from going to his house and seeing that his superior was abusing his wife. Spenser then beat him into the ground and had to serve 5 years in prison. After getting out, he stays with an old boxing coach, Henry (Alan Arkin), and has to share a room with the raw but talented Hawk (Winston Duke). If I wanted to touch on all the positives of this film, then I can just state that it only came from Arkin and Duke in their performances. Arkin always seems to deliver even when he’s not yelling “Argo fuck yourself” and Duke has enough charisma to carry even the most underwritten characters. I can stop there because the rest feels like a parody.
Mark Wahlberg continues his run in trying to be a real-life hero in taking on all these noble roles and it appears that every film after Deepwater Horizon with Peter Berg has progressively gotten worse. It has now led to this film, which shows that they must be out of ideas because I have no clue what they were trying to do with this film. The villains are simply terrible and don’t get me started with Iliza Shlesinger, who found herself in a completely different movie. A comedian who I’ve constantly tried to jive with but her style feels too incredibly over the top at all times to feel human in any way. I understand her character was meant to be this overtly Boston woman, but she felt like a complete cartoon in a film trying to take on some serious material.
The entire narrative feels incredibly convoluted with how it attempts to piece together all of the violence that takes place. Whether it be through weirdly specific expositional flashbacks or how character decisions simply do not make sense. Moments where Spenser attempts to be this renegade badass feel incredibly dumb. Examine the scene where he visits an inmate who may have information on the entire conspiracy he’s investigating. The guy knows the underground and happens to be part of the Aryan nation. In order to make him give up the information, they have the charismatic Hawk go on a date with his girlfriend. So we have Spenser showing Hawk on the date with his girlfriend hinting that she will sleep with a black man, even if her boyfriend is a white supremacist. This would be horrible for the inmate so he tells Spenser that he would tell him what he needs, as long as Hawk backs away from his girlfriend, which they oblige. He then mentions one word as if it’s a riddle. The entire exchange led to a cryptic word that Spenser needed to head to a media specialist in order to decipher as if they did not have leverage over him to explain a bit more. That entire sequence displays the utter incompetence of this screenplay in utilizing basic leverage and only gets made dumber by the inmate being portrayed by rapper, Post Malone.
Spenser Confidential is painfully not funny when it tries to be and so weak with its plodding self-seriousness. It barely puts anything together well, even towards the end where these characters become superheroes in order to cover up their inability to put a simple plan together. It has this faux machoness to it that only gets emphasized in the final fight sequence that made no narrative or thematic purpose that I just threw my hands up in disbelief. Simply an uneventful film that shows that sometimes talent cannot elevate weak directing and a shoddy screenplay.