- Eddie Harrison
- 9 March 2020
Comforting yet forgettable detective fun from director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg
Hollywood studio Universal spent years developing a revamp of TV show The Rockford Files as a vehicle for Vince Vaughn; if it ever gets made, chances are it'll look much like Spenser Confidential, a detective drama that makes a virtue of its lack of distinguishing qualities. Bringing together director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg for the fifth time in seven years (following Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day and Mile 22), this straight-to-Netflix thriller is amiable, forgettable fare.
Spenser (Wahlberg) is a tough ex-cop from Boston, who served time after an altercation with his captain John Boylan (Michael Gaston), who Spenser discovers is a wife-beater. Five years later, Spenser gets out of the slammer and is reunited with his dog, old pal Henry (Alan Arkin), and the pleasures of having a roommate, Hawk (Winston Duke from Us). But Spenser's rehabilitation is cut short when Boylan is murdered, and Spenser sets out to nail those responsible.
Wahlberg and Berg's previous ventures have been high-intensity stuff, but Spenser Confidential is a much more laidback proposition, with a single truck-based action sequence suggesting anything cinematic. Instead, the plotting is small-scale and rote in a film very loosely based on a novel (Wonderland by Ace Atkins) and using the character names created by Robert B. Parker, popularised by 80s TV show Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich.
Bringing seminal cinematic work like Roma and The Irishman direct to the customer, Netflix has fashioned itself as a great disrupter of the film business, yet this isn't disrupting anything: it's comfort food, as fast and familiar as a takeaway burger. Wahlberg brings charm, while it's nice to see veterans like Arkin and Colleen Camp, making Spenser Confidential never less than watchable. This is rudimentary detective stuff, treading water for filmmakers and audiences alike.
Available to watch on Netflix now.