There are films that sink under the urge to be too ‘cool’ with narrative structure, and “Spenser Confidential” is one of those. The effort is clearly to give an extra boost to a jaded, eighties-style cop action comedy. Yet, as the rather routine climax action sequence plays out at the end of a runtime of less than two hours, you are left wondering if this film was at all necessary in the first case.
Which would seem strange because “Spenser Confidential” marks the return of a viable Hollywood team. Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg are back together for the fifth time here, after collaborating on “Lone Survivor”, “Deepwater Horizon”, “Patriots Day”, and “Mile 22”.
Based on Ace Atkins’ novel “Wonderland”, the screenplay by Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland casts Walhberg as Spenser, a disgraced former cop who was notorious for playing by his own rules. As the film opens, Spenser has just been released from prison after serving a five year term for assaulting his former senior in the police force. He decided to get out of his hometown Boston for good but that’s when a couple of his former colleagues end up murdered. Spenser must crack the case, of course, with some help from his no-nonsense new roommate, Hawk (Winston Duke) and foulmouthed ex-girlfriend, Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger).
“Spenser Confidential” tries rolling in random influences off the streets of modernday Unites States. Police brutality and the Boston drug scene are significantly used in the storyline, although none of it looks very original. As Spenser probes, he realises there could be links between the case and real estate and the murky underworld.
Berg seems surprisingly devoid of ideas while fleshing out Spenser’s character or his story. The film lacks the engaging moments, and most of what unfolds is rather flat and familiar.
It is left to Wahlberg to render some screen presence to Spenser, an otherwise witty action hero who, for all his bad boy vibes, has a heart of gold. Wahlberg’s parallel hero Winston Duke as Hawk would also seem like a royal waste. Duke, who shot to fame playing M’Baku in the “Black Panther” universe before impressing with his role in last year’s horror allegory “Us”, hardly gets a role that taps into his proven talent. The least that this script could have done is set up some sort of a quirky buddy chemistry between the two male leads.
“Spenser Confidential” should find a captive audience on Netflix owing to its right smattering of Hollywood star power, but the film is hardly one that the buffs would care to remember even before the week draws out.
“Spenser Confidential” (Netflix original film); Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger; Direction: Peter Berg; Rating: * * (two stars)
— IANS, Vinayak Chakravorty