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In Theaters: MILE 22 (2018)

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MILE 22
(US/China - 2018)

Directed by Peter Berg. Written by Lea Carpenter. Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Ronda Rousey, Terry Kinney, Carlo Alban, Sam Medina, Natasha Goubskaya, Chae Rin Lee, Emily Skeggs, Keith Arthur Bolden, Poorna Jagannathan, Peter Berg, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Sean Avery, David Garelik. (R, 93 mins)

A fictional offshoot of actor-turned-director Peter Berg's "Mark Wahlberg: American Hero" trilogy, MILE 22 sees the duo hitting rock bottom and serves as irrefutable proof that whatever potential Berg might've had is gone and he's totally regressing as a filmmaker. LONE SURVIVOR was prone to military cliches but was a solid, well-acted film overall, and the underappreciated DEEPWATER HORIZON was even better, probably because it didn't paint Wahlberg as the sole hero and gave a lot of screen time to Kurt Russell and other actors, making it more of an ensemble piece. PATRIOTS DAY, Wahlberg/Berg's laughably simplistic take on the Boston Marathon bombing, which placed Wahlberg's completely fictional everyman cop as a tough-talking Johnny On-the-Spot who's magically at the center of all the action, even barking orders at FBI guys and government officials who hold off on making their next move until they consult with him, was a huge stumble, and MILE 22 finds the pair suffocating on the toxic fumes of their alpha male bullshit. This film is atrocious on nearly every level, from its confused plot to its quick-cut action sequences, which are over-edited to the point of sheer incoherence, to Berg functioning as less of a director and more of an enabler who's derelict in his duties, doing nothing to rein in his star, who turns in one of the most embarrassingly self-indulgent performances in recent memory. It's Mark Wahlberg imploding into bad self-parody by doing a ludicrously amped-up impression of "Mark Wahlberg," and that's long before another character actually says "Say hi to your mother for me." Imagine Jason Bourne as a loud, loathsome, motor-mouthed asshole and you'll get an idea of how insufferably grating an over-the-top Wahlberg is here. When John Malkovich yells "Stop monologuing, you bipolar fuck," one gets the impression that the line was unscripted.







Wahlberg is James Silva, the leader of an elite CIA black ops/counterterrorism unit called Ground Branch. He's supposed to be the best of the best, but as the opening sequence at a suburban American safe house of a rogue Russian terror cell and the subsequent 90 minutes demonstrate, a lot of colleagues seem to die on his watch. This isn't surprising seeing that he's almost like the perfect hero for the Trump era: a vein-popping anger management case and bellicose know-it-all prone to blowhard lectures that include long quotes from Wikipedia, frothing-at-the-mouth tantrums, dismissive insults to his colleagues, and endlessly yapping displays of bloated arrogance that make it hard to believe anyone would work under this prick, let alone lay down their lives for him. In an unnamed Asian country, nine containers of cesium have gone missing and Silva's team is activated by remote Overwatch commander Bishop (Malkovich) to deal with Li Noor (THE RAID star Iko Uwais), a cop and former Indonesian government agent who knows the worldwide locations of the missing cesium and wants asylum to the US in exchange for the information. This leads to a sort-of DIPSHIT GAUNTLET as Silva and his team, which includes Alice (Lauren Cohan as Milla Jovovich) and Sam (Ronda Rousey), have to safeguard and escort Li on a 22-mile trip across the city to the airport, all the while evading corrupt local cops charged with taking them out.


It speaks to Berg's clueless approach to MILE 22 that he has Uwais onboard and utterly squanders the opportunity by feeling the need to edit his action sequences into a scrambled, eye-glazing blur. THE RAID and its even better sequel THE RAID 2 were perfect showcases for the Indonesian action star, and Berg must be a fan since the last half hour of MILE 22 makes a sudden switch from DIPSHIT GAUNTLET to DIPSHIT RAID, with Silva, Alice, and Li trapped in a high-rise apartment complex as corrupt local cop Axel's (Sam Medina) goons try to corner and kill them. Working from a script by Lea Carpenter that should've been redacted in pre-production, Berg has made this film a loud, headache-inducing mess, with constant shaky-cam, bizarre camera angles, an over-reliance on close-ups, characters screaming at each other for no reason, and Wahlberg allowed to run rampant, unleashed, unchecked, and completely out of control, shouting at everyone and, in his more introspective moments, constantly snapping his wristband as a way of controlling his fury (it never seems to work). There's half-assed attempts at topicality with passing mentions of "collusion" and "Russian election hacking," and at character development with Alice in a custody battle with her ex-husband, an almost instantly-abandoned subplot that seems to exist only to give Berg some brief screen time as the asshole ex. Rousey's character has nothing to do but sit and watch Silva hurl her birthday cupcake across the room in a fit of rage like a toddler who can't find his binky, and Malkovich, sporting a distracting buzzcut wig and sneakers with a suit, tries out a mannered, halting, staccato delivery that suggests Christopher Walken having a stroke. The abrupt ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel, a presumptuous way to end things that's right in line with its abrasive hero's stratospherically-inflated sense of confidence even though almost everyone bites it under his command and he never sees the big plot twist coming. Cohan shows some action potential and Uwais gives it his best shot even though his work is repeatedly sabotaged by his director, but MILE 22 is just torpedoed from the start by Wahlberg in one of the most aggressively off-putting "hero" star turns you'll ever see in a major movie.


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