The incoherent Mile 22 plays like a crash course in how not to make a movie
While he may often be a leading man, it's hard to deny the fact that Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) is a character actor. He almost always plays a very specific sort of working class patriot, the cocky "hoo-ah" spewing gym rat who lives a couple doors down from you and only interrupts his boasting about chicks to defend the American way. Sometimes this is used to splendid, almost self-parody type effect, as we see in his performances as the narcissistic porn star Dirk Diggler in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights or as the brash detective Dignam in Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Other times he plays the most unintentionally insufferable, borderline incomprehensible tools, as is the case in Peter Berg's (Friday Night Lights) newest collaboration with Wahlberg, Mile 22.
The film follows Wahlberg as monologue-obsessed verbal abuser James Silva, a CIA black operative with a (quickly-explained) backstory as a genius orphan who channels his intellect into government-approved murder. Silva and his team, a collection of CIA misfits deemed by the government as "the third option" when diplomacy and military actions fail, are in Indonesia trying to recover stolen radioactive materials when his weirdly faithful partner Alice's (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead) local informant, an Indonesian special forces officer named Li Noor (Iko Uwais, The Raid franchise), arrives at the embassy with an encoded disk containing the locations of the stolen materials and a wish to be given asylum in America. Silva and his team are tasked with escorting Noor to a waiting plane in exchange for the unlocked disk and all that stands in between them is 22 miles of DANGER in the form of corrupt cops, soldiers, and gangs who stop at nothing to recover Noor.
The result is a rushed, messy extended chase scene inter-cut with the most irritating moments of Wahlberg's career. Berg, who seems to be the only director in Hollywood who has been able to perfect the likable-Wahlberg formula, inexplicably asks him to turn into a complete psychotic here. Silva is perhaps the worst action protagonist to hit the silver screen in quite some time, a elitist moron who frequently berates all those around him and has an affinity for incoherent run-on sentences. His "tick" is that he was trained as a child to snap a rubber bracelet against his wrist to keep his emotions in check, a reoccurring attempt to give him some semblance of a personality and remind the audience that this guy is a tortured genius, supposedly. It's worth noting that this never works, as Silva is not screaming in someone's face only when he's killing people. Not to mention that for someone who's characterized as an intelligence mastermind, he spends a lot of time making unfathomably dumb decisions.
Which brings us to the underlying problem with all of Mile 22, which is its incessant need to shower the audience with irrelevant details. Lea Carpenter's SparkNotes inspired screenplay is littered with smug attempts at world building, from Silva's wristband to Alice's curse-word blocking phone that she uses to communicate with her manipulative ex-husband and her daughter. Its favorite cutesy plot element is that the tech team that supports Silva and his cronies, run by a exposition-doling John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), is referred to by agents as "Mother", which allows for one character to sneer at Wahlberg and say the line "Say hello to your mother for me." It's all comically bad.
This could all be relatively ignored if the action was any good, but instead it's merely just okay. Perhaps the biggest sin of the film is that the fact that Uwais in largely wasted in his lead role, even though he is a fierce actor whose performances in The Raid and its sequel cemented him as one of the finest martial artists working in movies today. It's not that he isn't given much to do, it's the fact that Berg's direction is so poor and the editing so confusing that you can almost never tell what is going on screen. Uwais's skills are lost in the resulting chaos, as is the case with most of the film's action. Even UFC/WWE starlet Ronda Rousey (Furious 7) doesn't kick much ass despite the fact she's brought onto movies purely to do exactly that, which makes you realize this film doesn't really know why it exists in the first place.
Jarringly, the film ends almost out of nowhere with the promise of a sequel, leaving the audience with an under-cooked thriller that does nothing but leave a bad taste in your mouth. There is little value to be found in this self-serious, rambling affair, and it makes a case for the death of the Berg-Wahlberg duo and all the ill-advised American machismo that comes with it. That would be only the justice this movie could ever provide.