Over the last 5 years Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg have formed something of a symbiotic bond. Through Lone Survivor, Deep Water Horizon and Patriots Day, the two have doled out a series of films for a very particular subset of American audiences, ones where heroism and patriotism are the only barometers needed for success. Those are the only people likely to get excited for their newest film, Mile 22. For everyone else, it’s the sign that an intervention may be in order.
Wahlberg is Jimmy Silva, a hyper intelligent genius, who’s also a bit of a prick. Prone to bouts of violence and rage, he can only find calm in snapping a rubber bracelet 50 thousand times. That naturally meant he was the perfect recruit for a super secret CIA black-ops squad. Or at least that’s how it’s explained in a rather bizarre title sequence. So amazing at his job is Silva, that he spends the entire opening sequence standing around in the woods. Meanwhile his teammates deal with a group of terrorists inside a house. Really though it’s just an excuse to make Walhberg look tough while something goes boom.
The real meat of the story is set in Indocarr City. Somehow, six shipments of Cesium 139 have left the city and if unleashed will wreak catastrophic havoc. Working off intel from a local cop, Silva and his team (Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban) must move quickly to save the day, or at least wait for the cop, Li Noor (Iko Uwais) to come to them. Sensing his government will be quick to act against his treason, he delivers a disc that, once he’s safely out of the country (22 miles away), will reveal all the Cesium locations.
Assisting in getting the team from point A to point B is Overwatch, some 2000 miles away. A tech squad made up of unnamed hackers and John Malkovich. They provide support by watching Google Maps and yelling into walkie-talkies, about whatever bad guys may be around the corner. They leave this vague, as Mile 22 constantly forgets who the main villains are every five minutes and has 95% of them wear motorcycle helmets, probably to cut down on inconsistencies. It’s the least troublesome aspect of Lea Carpenter’s tired and cliche riddled debut script.
Mile 22 is the kind of film that’s so incoherent, it needs someone to reexplain the plot. Halfway through the film. Even then, it feels as if pieces are missing. That’s no matter, because those in the audience who are tuned in to the film’s precise wavelength could care less. They’re here to see a mix of bullets and martial arts mayhem. They’ll be a bit disappointed to learn what action there is, is hard to sit through. As effective as the explosions and squibs may look, shoddy camera work and erratic cinematography render that enjoyment factor almost nonexistent.
Of all the people the film loosely refers to as “characters”, Cohan (The Walking Dead) comes off as the most human. Wound as tightly as Silva, she at least has reason to be falling apart at the seams. Her job not only has far removed her from her daughter, but her ex-husband (Berg, of all people) is making things unbearable (just like this film). Of course, that plot line goes absolutely nowhere. After all, Mile 22‘s next closest discernible character trait is Malkovich’s alarming toupee.
It doesn’t help what may be one of the most aggressively annoying films to come out in a while. Just when you think Wahlberg can’t monologue any more, the film cuts to him monologuing in a framing story, just to have Malkovich tell him to stop monologuing, so he can monologue too. Well, more accurately he says “stop monologuing, you bi-polar f-” and then characters quickly discuss what Wahlberg’s actual diagnosis is, yet none of it matters. To call Mile 22 a mess is to insult more captivating messes.
If Mile 22 manages to do something good, it’s in making more people aware of Uwais. Yes, there are already those familiar with his acrobatic prowess from the Raid films and Headshot, but this brings him to the masses. Unfortunately, it does what so many other Hollywood ventures have done when attempting to import an overseas action star: it slashes their work to ribbons. Even through the myriad of unnecessary cuts, it’s hard to deny that Uwais is captivating. Not just action wise, mind you. He brings a presence and air to his small performance, that’s simply hard to deny.
Buried deep within Mile 22 is a solid little action flick. Squint very hard and it could be mistaken for the sort of film Tony Scott would have made between Enemy of the State and Man On Fire. Yet Berg lacks both the visual pizzazz or discipline that made Scott’s takes so entertaining. He gets the final laugh though, ending the film on the threat of a sequel. Something hopefully his life-bro, Wahlberg, can talk him out of. Stranger things have happened before.