Sunday, 17 May 2020

Spenser Confidential (2020) - Movie Review

Marking the fifth collab between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, there’s something… different about their chemistry this time around. It’s yet another bit of Boston brawn, once again giving Wahlberg the kind of bedrock he needs to give a decent performance, but it’s also a lot looser than their previous work. I’ve seen this billed as an action-comedy, but I personally wouldn’t go that far. Apparently, Berg encouraged more improvisation on-set and playing around with the tone, which admittedly helps separate this from his more recent work, but as I’ll get into, that’s not always for the best reasons.

The plot is reminiscent of Jack Reacher in how it’s about an outsider dealing with internal affairs within the law. It even cuts the pretence about how these police yarns always involve some kind of crooked cop by having that fact be an intrinsic part of the plot from beginning to end. From Wahlberg’s titular former policeman taking justice into his own hands to the violent resolution, we’re watching someone who’s seen the police pattern from the inside and, after spending five years in jail for sticking to his moral code, he wants to get to the bottom of it.

Where it gets odd is how this quite tense plot and pacing, involving some pretty grim ideas and imagery, is frequently interrupted by the aforementioned tonal switch-up. Again like Jack Reacher, a lot of that comes from the lead’s wiseass sense of humour, something Wahlberg is more than equipped to handle, and his chemistry with Winston Duke is good, but it never truly comes together as a proper action-comedy. When it aims for laughs, it just gets a few chuckles, but it never registers that it’s supposed to have that reaction. It’s one of those situations where the laughs are so few and far between that I wrote off the actual hits as incidental rather than deliberate.

Which is a shame because, as an action flick, it’s pretty good stuff. Steve Jablonsky, another long-time collaborator with Peter Berg, sets the right tone with his taut soundtrack (even if the needle drops feel particularly out-of-place alongside it at times), and the fight scenes themselves might be some of the best to come out of the Berg/Wahlberg relationship thus far. Add to that the script, which does well in detailing what makes Spenser and Duke’s Hawk tick, not to mention how endemic corruption and ‘looking the other way’ is within the police force, and you have a film that has two solid sides that never quite fit together properly.

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