The company Berg & Wahlberg present another venture: this time from Boston… again. Spenser Confidential is exactly what you would expect from this duo. That’s a good thing and also a bad thing.
Spenser just got out of prison after beating the living daylights out of his commanding officer, a domestic abuser and possibly a corrupt cop as well. So Spenser is not the most popular amongst the men in blue… naturally. And then the suspicious events start to pile up—his last day in prison the Aryan gang ambush, and the next morning after his first day of freedom that guy Spenser beat up is now dead. And they already found the guy who did the deed—a young cop with a clean record who apparently ended the another officer’s life and then took his own. Leaving behind his wife and kid. Spenser used to know this young cop and he knows he was one of the good ones. So Spenser sets out to clear his name, even though his original plan was to get a license and keep on truckin’ (like to become a trucker, sorry for the euphemism). He can always come back to that plan.
Spenser Confidential is based on a long-running series of books (the 41st), I have not a had chance to read any of those so I can not compare. I can tell what I heard though, apparently this is not really an adaptation just merely borrowing the main character (in the novels he is a private investigator) and the dog track setting (Wonderland, a working title of the film and a title of the 41st novel).
Acting-wise none of the characters are much of a stretch for any of the actors. Wahlberg does his tough guy the best way he can and you know it and that is why you watch it. Arkin does his best old guy routine and he is a great comic relief. Winston Duke of the M’Baku fame is perfect in these type of characters—the strong giant, a little cocky, little hard on the edges but a good friend when it counts. Ilza Schlesinger is also a great casting as the Boston angry ex, who later becomes vital to the plot (and surprisingly not as a damsel in distress). Bokeem Woodbine is always a pleasure in a film. Woodbine can chew any scenery and make dialogue (boring or well written) hugely entertaining.
All the characters and the plot are by the numbers. Have you read any P.I. pulp stories? Then you know how this one will go. The unlikely duo will become friends. Brian Helgeland, the writer behind the genius L.A. Confidential has his best ideas in that film. If you want a surprising police conspiracy story, rewatch it. If you want something easy, breezy and fun with a cast you like, then this is a good choice.
Spenser Confidential doesn’t reach the fun levels or The Rundown or the emotional intensity of The Lone Survivor but as a fun action pulpy romp for Friday evening, it’s enough. Wahlberg does his best Mark Wahlberg impression, Winston Duke has been born to be this type of a big brute character and Peter Berg always delivers as a director. You really understand why Berg and Wahlberg keep working together.