Director: Peter Berg Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich Running Time: 94 minutes
When revealing his daily routine recently on social media, Mark Wahlberg was very comprehensive. After waking at 2.30 in the morning, after getting some prayer in, Wahlberg spends hours upon hours working out in the gym, stopping only in order to consume a mid-sized lakes worth of protein, the better to enable even more working out. Sometimes he goes to the golf course. Presumably for time management reasons, he has members of his entourage driving turkey meatballs into his mouth while he plays. Wahlberg works tirelessly to turn himself into a flawless specimen, so it would be understandable if it stuck in the man’s craw just a little that after all that he isn’t as physically impressive as Mile 22 co-star Iko Uwais, the ass-kicking Indonesian of The Raid movies. Wahlberg is front and centre on the many Mile 22 posters around Dublin at the moment, but the storytelling and the physical facts really say that Uwais should be the focus here, and we might well have gotten a better movie if he were.
A mindless action movie that’s at least trying to have a brain, Mile 22 is a movie about hoo-rah heroes for the Trump generation, American idiots with a international bloodlust and an unwavering belief that they’re in the right…maybe that’s every American generation though. The frustrating thing is that there’s a good action movie hidden somewhere inside Mile 22. It just isn’t directed by Peter Berg and doesn’t star Mark Wahlberg.
Director of the likes of The Kingdom, Battleship, Deepwater Horizon and more, Peter Berg is the kind of action director that always gets big budgets and big names, despite the fact that he is incapable of staging a coherent action scene. Everything is shaking all the time, cuts happen second by second before the eyes get too comfortable looking at one frame for too long, every tic of Berg’s approach to action is indulged to a headache-inducing degree. Berg’s argument is surely that this is chaotic, frantic, energising. A replication of being in a real warzone. The end result is more like a replication of trying to play Call of Duty while shoved in a washing machine that’s been thrown down the stairs. More gallingly, the fist fights of Mile 22 are choreographed by Uwais himself, and you can just about see the skill of the man, but it all feels like a waste as Berg has no interest in sitting the camera still and just looking at Uwais and the stunt folk work.
The director is more drawn to main man Marky, a frequent collaborator who manages to be miscast in a film that he produced himself. He plays black ops agent James Silva, geopolitical murder genius. Silva leads the strike team Overwatch on super top secret missions, the kind that always devolve into messy shootouts even when they’re not supposed to. Silva is meant to come across as a hyper intelligent hardass protector of the free world, but Wahlberg’s gormless expression and angry demeanour just make him seem like someone the Russians could compromise through targeted Facebook ads. To prevent a highly toxic substance from being released by the forces of evil, the Overwatch team (with John Malkovich advising in the wings and The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan bravely trying to keep this movie watchable and Ronda Rousey, also present) must transport Iko Uwais to an airplane 22 miles away and try to stay alive in the process. It’s a simple premise, and there is premise in the bantering team taking on all-comers with Uwais playing the martial artist wildcard. But then you can’t tell what’s happening, and Wahlberg gets more irritating with every moment he’s on screen, and you’re asking “are we there yet?” before we’ve even got 5 miles out.
Stupid visually, morally, geopolitically, even capitalistically – featuring product placement for a divorce family planning app (!?) that seems to condemn the product, Miles 22 can’t be recommended, at least not in stronger terms than the Ibuprofen that would be required after seeing it. An exercise in indulging it’s leading man’s need to be a big tough guy, when the movies in the cinema are of the quality of Mile 22, you understand why Wahlberg wants to spend all day in the gym.(2 / 5)