REVIEW: Spenser Confidential (2020)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Spenser Confidential — Directed by Peter Berg.

Though I have yet to see Mile 22, I have liked every other Peter Berg-Mark Wahlberg collaboration — Lone Survivor; Deepwater Horizon; and Patriots Day — that came out prior to Spenser Confidential. So when I found out that Berg and Wahlberg were reteaming for a new Netflix film, I was very interested and, frankly, a little bit excited. I was hoping that Netflix had finally made a good, solid, and rewatchable action flick. However, Spenser Confidential is a terrible disappointment. Berg and Wahlberg’s partnership has not provided us with anything good this time around. It’s almost at the point where the only thing I liked about this movie were the dogs in it.

Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential is a comedic action-thriller film that follows a disgraced former police officer named Spenser (played by Mark Wahlberg). Back in the day, Spenser was sent to prison for assaulting his captain, John Boylan (played by Michael Gaston). When Boylan is killed soon after Spenser has been released from prison, our protagonist quickly becomes one of the main suspects in the murder case. Spenser, however, has an alibi, and, even though he wants to move on from police work, he soon decides to investigate the suspicious murder of Captain Boylan with his new roommate Hawk (played by Winston Duke).

As I mentioned above, I thought that the scenes with dogs were easily the best parts of the film. This is, of course, a criticism of the film, but it is also not a joke. Honestly, the best scene in the movie is the scene where we see a dog protect her home by snapping at Wahlberg and chasing him around her yard, which he has entered into in an attempt to catch a ‘bad guy.’ This is easily the funniest scene. Furthermore, I really enjoyed the fact that Spenser’s favorite thing in the world was his dog, Pearl. Unfortunately, the human cast is not nearly as memorable.

Although it is nice to see Winston Duke, who I’m actually starting to become a fan of, I was really disappointed by what Duke was given to work with. Spenser Confidential is a buddy cop action-comedy that frustratingly does not focus enough on Duke’s character. Duke and Wahlberg’s best scene together is ruined by what happens next, which is an awkward sex scene with Wahlberg and Iliza Shlesinger’s characters. Shlesinger is not a seasoned actress, and, unfortunately, you can tell. Though I actually tend to watch her stand-up specials, I thought that she overacted and gave a painfully unfunny performance in Spenser Confidential. On top of this, there were scenes where Spenser is supposed to be apologetic, where, instead, Wahlberg looked completely disinterested, zoned out, and uncharismatic. It is very frustrating to see a buddy-cop film with two marketable and recognizable leading stars that is unable to balance the focus and actually become a true buddy film. Not only is there not enough of a focus on Duke’s character, but there are also simply not enough scenes between Wahlberg and Duke to give us an indication of their chemistry together.

It is an indistinguishable and insignificant action-comedy with an extremely cliched rock soundtrack. I will say that some may enjoy seeing the bathroom fight scene that is paired with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” but it didn’t work for me. I thought that almost everything about this film just seemed derivative or cliched and lackadaisical. In what might be the film’s worst scene, it becomes clear that Berg did not know how to find a way to make the main character appear to be even a little bit competent. In this scene, Berg shows us several baffling close-up shots of Spenser writing down these very basic and unsophisticated notes such as: “Who killed Boylan???” and “Why?”. Get this, Spenser even draws a circle around “Why?”. When you make your main character spell out something so basic, perhaps in an effort to hold the audience by the hand, it just makes the character seem slow-witted.

With Michael Bay’s 6 Underground and Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential, Netflix has now made two very underwhelming but star-studded action films in a row. But while Michael Bay’s 6 Underground at least had a hip cast and a music video-inspired style that some may find pleasing, Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential has almost no outstanding or even interesting features. Although I wish this weren’t the case, I think that even the most recognizable faces in Spenser Confidential disappoint or are, frankly, wasted. It is a bland, sloppy, and silly star-studded action-comedy. Spenser Confidential is a Boston-set action-comedy buddy film on auto-pilot.

3 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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