After three successful outings, Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have proven they know how to do smart, gripping action, and perhaps it’s just a coincidence their previous efforts were all based on extraordinary real-life events. 2013’s Lone Survivor and 2016’s Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day were each among the better films of their respective years, so it’s at least halfway logical to think Mile 22 would—oh, I don’t know—at least be watchable? Instead we get a slap-dash, frenetic, mess of a movie that’s so over-the-top as to make Quentin Tarantino say, “Hey, pump the breaks a little, fellas.”
Wahlberg stars as Jimmy Silva, the leader of an off-the-grid black-ops group. We learn during a jump-cut opening credits montage that he was orphaned as a child, is prone to violence, and was diagnosed with an unnamed psychological disorder. He wears a rubber band on his wrist, so he can snap it and center himself when things get too hairy. (Needless to say he barely stops snapping it throughout the movie.)
Silva’s team, following an 18-months-earlier prologue that shows them dispatch a Russian undercover unit, is stationed at the US Embassy in an anonymous Southeast Asian country. One afternoon local officer Lin Noor (Iko Uwais) walks in with a computer disc that holds the location of five stashes of highly radioactive and deadly cesium, but he’ll only un-encrypt the information once he’s safely on a plane to America. The airstrip is 22 miles away, and the only route is through the heart of the city, where the native police force and a couple dozen renegades are waiting, armed to the teeth, trying to kill Noor before he escapes.
What follows is a solid hour of car chases, shootouts, bombings, and martial arts beatdowns so hyperactive and violent that you’ll be popping Dramamine with your Milk Duds before the film is halfway through. And during the few moments that the action dulls to a tolerable roar, Wahlberg is either pontificating like a reject from the Aaron Sorkin Academy or making such snide, obnoxious remarks that one can only hope he gets a well-deserved hammer to the face.
First-time screenwriter Lea Carpenter apparently wrote Mile 22 with Wahlberg in mind, and if I were Wahlberg I’d take that as an insult. It’s hard for me to recall a lead character so insufferably obnoxious that you wind up wishing the bad guys actually win.
Most of all, though, you gotta feel for editors Colby Parker Jr. (who also cut the previous three Berg/Wahlberg collaborations) and Melissa Lawson Cheung. Either they were so hopped up on double-shot espressos during the editing process, or they were forced to get a prescription for mood stabilizers when it wrapped.