Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have teamed on three real-life stories, the terrific Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and the highly underrated Patriots Day. Now for their fourth collaboration with Mile 22, they have dumped the inspiring stories and gone for some nonstop down-and-dirty rat-a-tat action in the hope of starting a franchise a la the Jason Bourne movies their new Mile 22 most closely resembles.
Unfortunately the minute Walhberg’s character Jimmy Silva opens his mouth all comparisons to the globe-hopping but relatively quiet Bourne are off. This guy is a real motor mouth, almost like Wahlberg is doing some sort of parody of himself, except he’s not. He hurls insults, barks orders, spouts philosophy, quotes authors and basically never shuts up. It is his thing, as in a purely movie convention to give him some distinction in order to turn this otherwise by-the-numbers CIA thriller into an ongoing series — clearly obvious from the blatant ending which offers a convenient twist to keep this all going. Lea Carpenter is the screenwriter, but the style is all Berg, with fast cuts and lean storytelling.
Walhberg’s Jimmy is a senior intelligence officer overseeing a team of colleagues who stake out an East Coast suburban home in order to trap some suspected Russian spies. It doesn’t go well. Cut to a new operation, after that tense opening scene, where we see the real plot kick in as Jimmy and his crew including Alice (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), Sam (Ronda Rousey) and Dougie (Carlo Alban) try to get the code to stop some radioactive material getting into the wrong hands. It already is, in a sense, because slippery intelligence agent Li Noor (Iko Uwais of The Raid movies) not only says he has it but also knows who is behind it. He says he will spill all details if he is urgently rushed to a plane and asylum in the U.S. in return. Jimmy has no choice, and no time, to do anything other than agree.
Thus the video game-style chase and race is on against the “bad” guys who seem to be at every turn. This would be fun if we were actually playing a video game, but instead we just get to watch and it is rather mind-numbing — and violent of course. The real action is in the hands of Uwais, a gifted martial artist who supplies a couple of mind-boggling kickass fights (including one where he is handcuffed to a hospital gurney) that normally would be the thing a movie’s leading man would engage in. Not this time. The spotlight for most of the action is on Uwais, who steals this film lock, stock and in the barrel of a gun.
Wahlberg, on the other hand, uses his mouth as his primary weapon but does look good holding big assault rifles as he turns corners and runs down various halls and streets. This time out he seems to be posing, rather than the real thing that Uwais delivers so effectively. Uwais also is a sly actor, and Li Noor is an intriguing character. If there are sequels they should be all about him. Wahlberg is always watchable, a terrifically empathetic actor, but this time it seems a little too calculated. The rest of the cast is fine, with Cohan effectively alternating between being a take-no-prisoners agent and concerned mother but somehow pulling it off. John Malkovich has the thankless role of the boss at U.S. Embassy headquarters watching his Overwatch team’s every move unfold on the streets of the fictional country of Indocarr. He has a team helping as they all stare at screens that remarkably even tell them the blood pressure of everyone in the chase. Isn’t technology amazing?
You can’t argue with the 94-minute running time, but as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), this is a movie that seems purely manufactured and never for a moment feels authentic. Berg is a talented director, but at this point he can do this kind of thing in his sleep. A revisit to Mission: Impossible – Fallout might be a better bet for this kind of thrill ride this weekend. Producers are Stephen Levinson, Wahlberg, and Berg. STX releases it today.
Do you plan to see Mile 22? Let us know what you think.
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