Review by Adam Donato
Spenser Confidential tells the story of a former cop and recently ex-con from Boston, who brings it upon himself to solve a mystery concerning corrupt cops. Mark Wahlberg reunites with Peter Berg for the fifth time in this crime thriller loosely based on a series of mystery novels called Spenser. The film also features Alan Arkin, Winston Duke, and Bokeem Woodbine. This film works well for three reasons: solid direction from the very capable Berg, a strong lead in Wahlberg, and a distinct cultural setting in Boston.
Ignoring Battleship, Berg has made several solid action flicks with Wahlberg, like Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, and most notably Lone Survivor. He is a very capable director who knows how to make a type of film very well: Mark Wahlberg action-thrillers. Seeing the duo pull off this small release is no surprise. A runtime of less than two hours helps the pacing. The performances are all solid for a movie like this. Berg delivered an enjoyable film.
Wahlberg, whether one dislikes him for personal reasons is fair, can carry a movie. His performance is very much one that he has done before. Wahlberg, while good, is usually just Mark Wahlberg in his movies. This works very well for Spenser Confidential as he plays a rebellious tough guy with a chip on his shoulder and a moral duty to solve a mystery. He’s funny and charismatic. It fits this role very well. Additionally, Wahlberg's has a very weird relationship with his love interest and it’s hard to know how to feel about it, but it works.
John Mulaney once said that New York is like a character in a movie. The same goes for movies set in Boston. There’s a lot of songs and references in general that are very much so Boston. This goes very well with the tone of the movie. Hearing "Sweet Caroline" play over an action scene is a delight. It’s stereotypical Boston stuff, but it gives this movie a lot of personality and it’s enjoyable.
Overall, Spenser Confidential is a solid crime-thriller. There’s nothing special about it unless you’re a big Mark Wahlberg fan. Is it worth going to the theater to see? The world will never know since it was released on Netflix, which is very convenient.
Spenser Confidential is now streaming on Netflix.