If you chat me up about movies for even just a few minutes, you’ve got a a pretty solid chance of me rambling about something pertaining to Ryan Reynolds. He’s clearly one of my favorites that ever was. There’s really no substitution for him but in the same way that I’ll gladly accept a grape Fanta if you’re out of Orange, I’ll happily entertain a Mark Wahlberg flick any day of the week if you’re out of Reynolds. This particular venture wasn’t even on my radar as it’s a Netflix original. While Netflix is just as busy pouring out as much original content as they can in the neo-streaming wars we find ourselves in currently, they’ve also been changing some of the cinematic landscape. I can’t say I love it all but I’m definitely more than pleased to find some of these nuggets of gold that seem to surface out of the mix.
Spencer Confidential is loosely based on the Robert B. Parker’s “Spencer” mystery novels that the television series starring Robert Urich from back in the mid 80’s was also a derivative of the aforementioned source material. This update for 2020 is my favorite kind of action thriller. To me, this movie is first and foremost just all kinds of fun. There’s plenty of people who would roll their eyes at a movie like this which earns its keep on the premise of some gratuitous fight sequences and more Wahlberg badassery than thematic substance. I would gladly debate this but minds like that are often made up before they even press play this kind of flick.
First off this is the fifth Peter Berg Directed and Wahlberg starring venture and I hope they do nothing but keep churning these out for years to come. Wahlberg as Spencer is 100% Boston Superhero and betwixt the two of these men at the helm it is pure awesomeness from the time the first scene fades to black. As a Boston cop turned ex-con who can’t leave well enough alone, Spencer finds himself in a number of precarious situations where punching seems to be the best way out of trouble. In nearly 2 hours of intervals of this senseless violence I find myself wishing they could have squeezed in one or two more hand to hand bouts. But I will defend the fact that he’s not just a senseless buffoon who lucks his way into a plot. Wahlberg uses that Bostonian charm all throughout the film and it never tires. He’s a badboy with a heart of gold who can’t help but do what he believes is right. Justice has to evolve when the institution responsible for serving it is riddled with corruption.
Outside of Marky Mark’s on screen charisma there is an impeccable supporting cast. Its the film debut for recording artist Post Malone who has a small role but seems to be quite capable in his acting prowess. With that many face tattoos there’s a limited number of roles for a fella like that but I’d be ok seeing him in future projects. Shortly into the beginning of the film I was overjoyed to see Alan Arkin appear. He’s always been a more than reliable staple in just about any project I’ve seen him in and this was no exception. His sarcastic old man humor is expertly applied here as the elderly guardian angel is on the scene to pick up Spencer as he is released from prison. He’s also the means by which we are introduced to Spencer’s roommate turned partner later in the film, Hawk, played by Winston Duke. Duke has such a physical presence on screen but there’s a quiet reservation to him that creates a stoic giant next to Spencer’s devil may care charm. The two of them don’t immediately click but I was also happy that this mechanism wasn’t long played for either laughs or dramatic effect as the two of them being partners is far preferable to them being rivals. Rounding out the primary supporting cast is comedian Iliza Shlesinger. She has been overdue for the big screen as her comedy is absolutely inspired and she has an incredible stage presence with remarkable range. She had a small role in Wahlberg’s previous film “Instant Family” and it seems as though she garnered some favor in that flick to make a second appearance in a Wahlberg production. As a Dallas born and raised comedian, she displays expert precision in nailing the Boston accent. That is no small feat. A bad Boston accent can easily ruin a role for an actor and can do some heavy damage to an entire film. And when you’re working with two of Boston’s heaviest hitters, Berg and Wahlberg, you’ve definitely gotta bring your A game. She did. Definitively.
I will say that there’s nothing terribly unique about the plot lines. Its easy fodder for this kind of flick to dance around corrupt cops, drugs and other illicit affairs. But that’s the beauty of a movie like this for me. I don’t even care. There are plenty of movies out there with all sorts of character development and long, intense scenes of expertly written dialogue. This movie is not that. Now, I won’t undersell it and imply that this is just explosions and fist fights for the sake of satisfying some caveman sort of cinematic blood lust. But I will make the case that sometimes simply enjoying a movie for the merits of exactly what you see on screen is just as fun as an intricately crafted, two hour thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sometimes I’m hungry for a David Fincher or a Christopher Nolan sort of motion picture meal and other times I’m just as satisfyied to drive through and grab a good old fashioned John McTiernan or Peter Berg action happy meal.
I will say that I’m starting to find this new wave of cinematic styling to be very interesting in it’s approach. With last fall’s “The Irishman” featuring a reunion of epic proportions between Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci and Pacino and the 2 hour winter explosion that I can’t get enough of when Michael Bay, Ryan Reynolds, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick all got together to make our collective lives better in the epic “6 Underground”, Netflix is really seeming to change the movie game up quite a bit. As of late there have been a number of prominent actors, directors, writers and everyone in between that have been aligning with streaming studios to churn out big screen megahits that are specifically intended, if not exclusively accessed on the small screen. “The Irishman” had a brief run in theaters so that it could contend for the award circuit but aside from it’s very limited availability in theaters, it was primarily a Netflix only film. Even by Scorsese’s own plea, he asked viewers to not watch this film on their phone, a thriving new bastion of entertainment consumption in 2020. Combined with sporadic news reports of declining theatrical performances of films in general, it’s just curious to take a step back and wonder if films like “Spencer Confidential”, “6 Underground” and “The Irishman” are simply the high end of new content being produced to continue enticing viewers to keep their Netflix account first and foremost or is this some sort of transition we are making to a next wave of cinematic digestion. I’m not sure what the answer is but I definitely feel like its food for thought.
So I’ll close it out with just a solid recommendation of this film. I’m not going to trudge through the plot because its just a fun watch from beginning to end. Its Mark Wahlberg being the Mark Wahlberg we know and love. He’s got a great supporting cast, a seasoned veteran and close friend behind the camera helping him make a wildly entertaining flick and a fun little twist at the end that makes you think there could easily be more Spencer movies in your Netflix queue further down the road. I’m entirely thrilled with that notion and cannot wait to hear the news of a green lit sequel. In the same way that the 80’s and 90’s afforded us a bevy of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis and the like in over the top action and quippy dialogue that worked absolutely perfect, Walhberg and crew are a revival of that action thriller with a dash of comedy that goes down smooth every time. Don’t go in with high expectations but do prepare to really enjoy yourself when you fire up Netflix’s very recent addition to their programming lineup, “Spencer Confidential”. I’ve been your Cinemaster to the North, Adam Peterson and I’ll catch you on the flip side.