MARK Wahlberg’s favorite director is obviously Peter Berg as they’ve done several films before, like “Mile 22”, “Deepwater Horizon”, “Patriot’s Day” and “Lone Survivor”, the last three all being fact-based flicks. They’re now together again in “Spenser Confidential”, an action-comedy on Netflix which is loosely based on the novel by “Wonderland” by Ace Adkins which is in turn based on the “Spenser: for Hire” TV series starring Robert Urich in the 80s.
Mark plays Spenser, a Boston cop who goes to the house of Capt. John Boylan (Michael Gaston) to ask about the murder of an activist woman named Gloria. He discovers that Boylan is currently beating up his wife and reacts by also beating up Boylan. Because of this, he gets jailed for five years and, after his release, he plans to move to Arizona and start a new life as a truck driver.
He’s fetched at the prison by his old friend and boxing mentor, Henry (Alan Arkin), in whose house he temporarily stays. He meets his roommate, Hawk (Winston Duke), a huge black guy who he helps train as a mixed martial arts fighter on the ring.
Meanwhile, Boylan is murdered by four hooded men and his execution-style killing is pinned on another cop, Terrence Graham (Brandon Scales), who is found with a gunshot wound in his head, making it appear that he committed suicide. Mark investigates on his own since he knows Terrence is a straight cop and soon uncovers a conspiracy implicating top cops who are involved in a corrupt case of a casino in a place called Wonderland.
One of the bad guys is his own friend, Driscoll (Bookem Woodvine), who tells him to stop digging into the case. A group of thugs with deadly machetes then assault Mark while he’s having lunch in a Mexican diner, but the hulking Hawk comes to his rescue. Mark gets hold of a tape recording where Boylan reveals the names of the rogue cops involved in the casino case, which is the very reason why he is liquidated.
Mark also confirms the coming shipment of drugs from New Hampshire to be delivered to Wonderland. He and Hawk are able to apprehend it and the movie’s climax happens at Wonderland itself, showing the usual final showdown with the good guys versus the bad ones. The name of Terrence Graham is cleared and Mark and Hawk are declared as heroes, with the casino shut down.
The movie’s basic plot is something you’ve seen before in action flicks involving dirty cops, but it’s entertaining enough since Mark as the star (and also producer) is already so at home with the material that is a fun piece of action nonsense liberally spiced up with trashy humor, some of which is provided by Mark’s foul-mouthed ex-girlfriend, Cissy (Iliza Schlesinger).
Mark and Director Berg has certainly done better action films than this, but this one has no pretensions than being a mid-budget action flick, although with a lead character who has a strict moral code to see justice done. It also helps that Mark works well with his own black sidekick, like the zany pair “Lethal Weapon” or “48 Hours”.
We hate the usual trope where the hero can already shoot the villain but prefers to engage him first in a mano-a-mano. But it’s obvious Mark is having fun in the process and it’s enough to prompt us not to take all of it seriously. Winston Duke as Hawk is not as flashy as Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy, but he’s a very good counterpoint to Mark’s showier role.
Alan Arkin rounds out their hilarious trio, utilizing well his own comedic chops. As a whole, it’s the kind of movie you’d enjoy watching at the moment then you can forget all about it later.