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dir Peter Berg
scr Lea Carpenter
prd Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg, Stephen Levinson
with Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban, Natasha Goubskaya, Chae-rin Lee, Sam Medina, Terry Kinney, Brandon Scales, Poorna Jagannathan
release US 31.Aug.18, UK 19.Sep.18
Protective custody: Wahlberg and Uwais
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
After teaming up for three action-based true stories, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg reunite for this fictional thriller. A heavy reliance on technological gadgetry means that it looks very cool, but there's so little to the characters or story that it never quite comes to life. And it's perplexing that Berg chops the action moments into incoherent noise.
As leader of a super-elite team of black-ops specialists, Jimmy (Wahlberg) has found a way to channel his hyper-obsessive tendencies. Under the command of shady government official Bishop (Malkovich), Jimmy and his cohorts (including Cohan, Rousey and Alban) have moved on to Indonesia after taking out a nest of Russian spies in suburban America. And now their assignment is to transport rebel police officer Li (Uwais) 22 miles to an airstrip in exchange for a code that can stop a devastating attack. But a top Russian agent (Goubskaya) is messing with them.
The script never attempts to add layers to the story, remaining resolutely superficial as the team faces each obstacle. This makes the film lean and rather mean, but leaves little for the audience to grab onto. The tone is grunting machismo, both men and women, but each fistfight or chase scene is shot in shaky-cam and edited into confetti, leaving only the odd glimpse of perhaps inventive action choreography. And since characters are so paper-thin, it's difficult to care what happens.
Each person gets precisely one personality trait, which at least helps us tell them apart. But a montage of Jimmy's childhood and vague allusions to his troubled marriages isn't enough to make him a compelling figure, no matter how much jittery swagger Wahlberg brings to the screen. Peppering one-liners throughout the dialog lightens the mood, but none of the other characters even remotely comes into focus. This is especially a shame with Uwais, who ripples with on-screen charisma.
But the bigger question is what this movie wants to say. It appears to be fear-mongering propaganda to frighten small-minded Americans from leaving home because the rest of the world is a war zone (this is clearly unintended irony). Dozens of anonymous people are mowed down by automatic gunfire over the course of this story, while others die in more grisly ways. Of course, when members of Jimmy's team are killed, it's so achingly heroic that the only realistic response is an eye-roll at the fake, rah-rah patriotism. So the way it sets up a sequel is a final insult.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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