I love Mark Wahlberg. I love Peter Berg. They've had a solid streak lately. What could go wrong?
The Plot...is fine.
Jimmy "I'm too cool for this crap" Silva and his team of bad-asses are thrown into a high pressure situation when they have to get a police officer across an Indonesian city, through an army of terrorists attempting to kill them all. But the only way to prevent chemical warfare is to get the police informant out alive and I don't care, this movie wasn't very good. I know I should take this review seriously, but this movie was a major disappointment. For me anyways, there is no reason why this movie was as bad as it was. We have Peter Berg here who is one heck of a director who has shown time and time again that he is more than competent in what he does for a living; whether it be his last three ventures alongside Mark Wahlberg with Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, and Lone Survivor which were all very solid, intense and entertaining films. Or even looking back to some of his early work with Very Bad Things and The Rundown, again, very well done and just simply fun films to watch! I don't understand what went wrong here, I truly don't.
I will say that the plot is fine, in concept anyways. This is a premise that I have seen before and I've seen it executed to terrific extent; one man has to get a witness from point A to point B alive through practically an army of people trying to kill them. That is an exciting plot line right there that easily supplies plenty of intense and high octane fun to have. 16 Blocks starring Bruce Willis is a good example of this very plot done fantastically, same goes for Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet. Both films I highly recommend over ever watching Mile 22.
Okay...So what's the problem?
I'm so glad you asked...well, I asked...myself. Regardless, the problem is in execution. The plot is exactly what I had described above, a major problem however is that it literally takes fifty minutes to get that plot actually moving. At that point, the film is over halfway finished! It takes the story so long to actually get moving that I'm wondering at about the thirty to forty minute mark if it's ever going to start. And it would be one thing if the characters were interesting enough to hold one's attention or were at least charismatic, but they're not. Particularly with Mark Wahlberg's character, James Silva, who is extremely unlikable and simply comes across as the jerk quarterback of the high school football team with a majorly obnoxious ego. This is personally something that I am really not used to, disliking a Mark Wahlberg performance. I love Mark Wahlberg, as an actor, he can do no wrong for me. I love his work because he can be intense and psychotic in Fear, heartwarming and charming in Invincible, hilarious in Ted and Boogie Nights, downright brilliant in Pain & Gain, and just simply cool in We Own the Night and All the Money in the World. He is a phenomenally talented actor that shows how much range and charisma he is capable of throughout so many years of solid work, to the point where he can make even a terrible M. Night Shyamalan horror film into possibly one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Somehow, I hate Wahlberg in this movie. I hate his character from a writing standpoint as well as in his delivery. This character would be fine, if he was the villain of an 80's high school shenanigans flick; he would be the quarterback that beats up on the protagonist and gets his comeuppance in the end. This film is clearly far from being that. In this, we're supposed to like this guy. We're supposed to route for him to make it through this scenario alive. The movie is under the impression that he is likable or funny and he sadly isn't. There's nothing likable about this guy, he's a complete monster quite honestly. Even the delivery of Wahlberg's lines just make this guy seem like a condescending ego maniac. Also, not to mention, he has one of the most irritating gimmicks for "character depth" that I have seen in a while. To elaborate more on that, the gimmick revolves around a rubber band on Wahlberg's wrist that he is constantly snapping in several scenes. He will be in the middle of a discussion and then all of the sudden he pops the rubber band, with the camera focusing on the act and the sound effect being loudly pronounced and it is ridiculously annoying. Especially when it will come out of nowhere and he'll do it multiple times in one scene alone. The reason given for this, as well as why his character so unlikable is because of a traumatic backstory taken place early in his youth revolving around his family. Which is exposition dumped entirely in the opening credit sequence and really doesn't carry any weight anywhere else in the story; plus can only give the character so much of an excuse to be as unpleasant as he is before it loses all meaning.
What pushes him over the edge, for me, from being just a narcissistic cretin to being a straight-up monster is his total disregard for the lives of his teammates. In order to get more into that subject I have to get into some spoiler territory, so I'm giving my spoiler alert right now. Spoiler Alert! You have been warned. So, Jimmy Silva practically forces some members of his team to basically commit suicide. In some situations, I can understand how with certain context a situation may warrant a sort of 'kamikaze'-like act. However, with one or two of these members, I'm not so sure. For example, after one specific action scene involving the transport being ambushed, Ronda Rousey's character is severely wounded. Instead of trying to get her in the getaway car to possibly treat her wounds further, Silva hands her two grenades and just gives her a look that pretty much says, "You know what you have to do". Resulting in her blowing herself up once more baddies come in for her. It didn't make any sense to me for a couple of reasons; one, at that point, the protagonists weren't under any immediate danger anymore. They had seemingly taken care of all the threats in that area. Secondly, she seemed probably capable enough to make it to the car with some assistance and even if her wounds were treated properly she could have possibly survived. But nope. Silva says that it's time to go 'Boom Boom' for your country and you do what the quarterback, I mean, team leader says! Another similar situation happens later on with a second team member, leaving a man behind to face a similar fate without any sign of remorse whatsoever. Even at the very opening action sequence of the movie, a team member dies from an operation gone bad and there isn't any sort of acknowledgment about that at all. Like it didn't even happen. Yet, for whatever reason in the last act, Silva for once shows some form of concern for one of the people on his team when it is Lauren Cohan's character, but even then he manages to deflate that tiniest of character depth. Because during the climax of the film, Silva and the informant become separated from Cohan's character and they decide to go back for her. And in typical action movie fashion, they save her at the last possible second; which is fine until Wahlberg utters the line, "Come on, get up, I wasted ten f***ing minutes coming back for you!"... Ladies and gentlemen, this is our hero. It wasn't even him that saved her, it was actually the informant. Way to make me care even less about this guy!
Alright, alright. I get it. You weren't a fan of Wahlberg, but is there actually anything else wrong here?
The editing. The editing in this film was such a nightmare for me. It was rare to see a camera shot last for more than a few seconds at a time. I was agitated about it to the point where I started counting to see how long it would go before the next cut; 1, 2. Cut. 1, 2, 3. Cut. 1, 2. Cut. 1. Cut. 1. Cut. 1, 2, 3, 4. Cut. It was really bad. Particularly in the action sequences. There were times I couldn't tell what was going on in the action. I couldn't tell who was in correlation to what in certain scenes. I thought the editor was trying to drive me nuts because I couldn't tell what was happening or where anyone was. Sometimes the editing was fine, mainly outside the action beats, rarely inside of them. When the action was coherent, I could tell that the fight choreography and the shootouts were good. They did solid work in terms of setting up these action sequences and they were one of the few things that carried me through this film. There were brief moments where I even found the action to be slightly cringe-worthy, in a good way. Unfortunately, they weren't worth the rest of the film being sub-par.
The story itself, like I said prior, doesn't have a solid structure. The premise of what it is about is fine, but the fact that it takes fifty minutes to get the plot rolling and we spend that whole time with Mark Wahlberg acting like a total obnoxious snot while almost everyone else is just uninteresting to watch. The only people that are remotely interesting and even somewhat relatable is Lauren Cohen's character, Alice Kerr and Iko Uwais as the informant for the team that they have to keep alive. Alice is a mother that is away from her child during a messy divorce with her fairly rude ex-husband while also having to deal with a 'life or death' career was actually somewhat engaging and I liked her character. Iko's character isn't really all that developed in all honestly, but his performance is so cool and seemingly calculated that I couldn't help but be intrigued by him. I liked certain touches that he put into his character and he handled the action scenes very well. They both did for that matter. Problem here being that they aren't the leads, they're supporting characters that get relatively minimal screen time. Their performances are great and they do what they can, but it's unfortunately not enough. The rest of the cast is dull, playing underdeveloped, 2-Dimensional stereotypes.
The framing device of the story was also very distracting, taking place after the events of the movie with Silva being interviewed about the situation and the only reason I could figure that it was included was to let Wahlberg read countless lines of shallow metaphors in order to make his character seem 'so cool' in the action beats of the main plot line. But it comes across as self-indulgent for his character. It was annoying to cut out of the action so Wahlberg could spout out lame lines and snap his wrist band, then cut right back to the story again. Not to mention that it takes all suspense away, from the fact that we know his character makes it out of the situation alive.
The ending is awfully trite, I don't mean necessarily the final act or even the twist. That's all fine, to an extent. I mean the actual ending of the movie. I won't spoil exactly what happens, but it sequel baits at the very last minute of the run time and I was annoyed. If the character of Silva was better developed and executed then I would possibly be on board for what a sequel could promise. Even leaving in all of the other qualms I have with the film, I would still be somewhat optimistic about the idea of where the sequel's story could go as a revenge action film. But I didn't like Wahlberg's character, he was a huge reason why I thought the movie as a whole did not work. I will blame that mainly on the writing, but his performance only enhanced how detestable Silva was for me.
So...you don't recommend this movie?
No, not really. I don't. I don't think it's an entirely terrible film. The fight choreography and shootouts were well crafted. The acting wasn't necessarily bad, even Wahlberg wasn't poorly acting, he was simply given bad direction for his character while the rest of the cast wasn't given anything to work with. With the exception of Lauren Cohen and Iko Uwais, but they weren't given enough time to be significantly developed. The camera work, at times, looked decent. The editing, however, botched it into a pretty bad state though. The basic plot is good, there was just too much padding in the first half of the movie that focused on uncharismatic characters. The script needed another draft or two to polish up the structure, as well as a complete rework of the Silva character and this movie would have been fine. As it is, it's not the worst I've seen, not by a long shot. But it is forgettable and a huge letdown for me coming from a director I respect and an actor that I know could carry an action film in his sleep. In what is now a quadrilogy of Wahlberg/Berg team-up films, this is the worst of that particular bunch. Not the worst of their careers, those titles belong to Battleship and The Big Hit. Probably. But in terms of their work together, the other three movies are leaps and bounds over this. I say skip this and watch anything else that I suggested above. Or don't, just avoid this. Please. It's not good.
© 2018 John Plocar