Review: Spenser Confidential

Spenser Confidential (2020)

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, and Austin Post

Plot: A former, just released from prison cop decides to investigate a crime involving his dirty former co-workers.

Review: Have you ever heard of the 1980’s television series Spenser: For Hire? Me neither. But apparently it was based on a book series with a whopping 48 (!) entries. Now, I’m not saying that you need to know this going into Spenser Confidential, but learning this fact afterwards made everything make sense. See? This movie is a half-assed mess. And, I was trying to figure out why. Apparently, the creators must think that there’s already a fanbase that’ll see this no matter what. Either that or they have too much admiration for what came before. I’m not sure what the case is here. I just know that it felt very familiar and now I recognize the scent from other movies like Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch. It’s very much in the same vein as those movies. I thought we’d moved past this stuff…

Like those previously mentioned movies, Spenser Confidential feels like a love letter to their television roots. They took what worked, filled the roles with likable people, and tried to recreate the magic. I’ll give them props. It almost worked in this case thanks to the two leads. Mark Wahlberg is doing what he does best. For some reason, he just has this vibe that makes you want to root for him. Because of that, I was really into this movie at first. That is until I realized his character has absolutely zero flaws. He’s just an all around good guy. A big boy scout that would make WWII Superman look edgy. Seriously, most kids’ programming has more complex characters than this guy now. How are we supposed to connect with this guy? Just because he’s doing the right thing? I mean… I get it. That’s probably how the tv show and books were written too, but I need some kind of complexity more than “I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” Come on! That’s almost an exact quote from the movie by the way. Winston Duke’s character is almost the same way, except add a dash of “quirky weirdness” and strip it down to even less character development. Seriously, these characters are boring. The fact that they’re almost likable is a testament to how charismatic these actors are.

The less said about the stereotypical angry Boston girlfriend and the sassy grandpa, the better too.

On top of the boring characters, I can’t believe how hit-and-miss Spenser Confidential was. There are some really, legitimately well designed action sequences in this movie. They’re well choreographed and entertaining. Mark Whalberg also does his shtick throughout them, so they are almost funny. Like I said, I was genuinely enjoying myself for a large chunk of this movie. Then, two of the worst sequences I’ve seen right in a row happened. First, we got the clingiest sex scene I’ve witnessed in a very long time. Like, it was really, really bad. Porn flicks have better writing. It was like the masturbation fantasy of a thirteen year old boy. It was gross. It felt weird. It wasn’t funny. It added nothing to the story. They should’ve cut it. Then, we see Marky Mark fight with a dog, which felt like it was straight out of Beethoven. It was really bad. From that point on, it almost felt like each scene was from a different movie. Sometimes it was a slapstick comedy. Sometimes it was a buddy cop movie. Sometimes it was a really gritty mystery movie. Then, it’d go right back into the broadest of comedies. It never really felt consistent and I could feel my interest waning. I really wanted to like this movie. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t.

TL;DR: Spenser Confidential is way too inconsistent to be considered a good time despite it’s likable cast and interesting premise.

Score: 4/10 (Bad)

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