'Spenser Confidential' Is an Action-Comedy Slog

Directed by Peter Berg

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Marc Maron, Post Malone

BY Patrick ClancyPublished Mar 11, 2020

Belonging in a bargain bin, but currently on Netflix's front page, Spenser Confidential is an action-comedy film starring Mark Walhberg and Winston Duke, directed by Peter Berg — his fifth collaboration with Walhberg following their work together on the likes of Mile 22 and Lone Survivor. The film concerns Spenser (Walhberg) who, after spending five years in prison for attacking his corrupt police captain, befriends his new roommate Hawk (Duke) to solve a murder involving his former police colleagues.
Most of Spenser Confidential's pleasures come from small comedic beats like watching Wahlberg praise his dog as "a queen," or listening to Iliza Shlesinger admonishing the leads for doing "Batman business," but in general, the film is lacking in artistry. There are countless dull drone shots of Boston in place of any real city texture. The action is edited carelessly — nearly every thrown fist lands without impact — and as a mystery, the movie is especially un-engaging. The conspiracy at its centre is pieced together in a lackadaisical manner, and the plot relies more on coincidence than ingenuity in design.
Berg captures even the most basic of interactions with bewildering visual choices. For example, in an early scene when Spenser arrives at his new home, every so often the film cuts to a bizarre security camera style view of the street, entirely unmotivated and very distracting.
Mark Wahlberg is affable enough as Spenser, but Winston Duke is the film's greatest asset. Despite being given hardly anything to work with, Duke makes Hawk the most three-dimensional of the cast, appearing genuine even when delivering paper-thin material. Populating the film's margins is a supporting cast delivering performances of varying quality, such as rapper Post Malone, clearly having fun mugging in his role as a smug prison inmate, and others, like Alan Arkin and Marc Maron, whose talents are wasted.
A few moments in the film hint at idiosyncrasies that could be interesting were they magnified, but Berg doesn't know where to look, and as a result, Spenser Confidential is a slog.

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