I love buddy cop movies.
I grew up on movies like "Rush Hour" and "Men in Black." Later in life, I watched films like "48 Hrs." and "Lethal Weapon" on a loop.
What makes those four movies special? Chemistry.
So does Netflix's "Spenser Confidential" have that? Absolutely not.
Peter Berg's latest film starring Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke and Alan Arkin is surprisingly dull. When I felt like I was an hour into the movie, it turns out it was just 20 minutes.
Spenser (Wahlberg) is an ex-cop turned convict after beating up his police chief. Spenser serves his time and has aspirations to become a truck driver. Spenser is released to a very grumpy Henry (Arkin) and meets Hawk (Winston), a spiritual, aspiring fighter who is his roommate now.
Spenser begins to investigate the deaths of two police officers and gets swept up in a wide conspiracy of corruption that is so convoluted and nonsensical that explaining it would be a waste of time for everyone.
This is the Berg's fifth film in a row starring Wahlberg. Each of their collaborations —except "Lone Survivor," which has some good moments — has been a disappointment.
Berg's direction comes off as a less flashy, less indulgent Michael Bay. Whereas Bay's movies make you laugh at every ridiculous action sequence, Berg's movies make you yawn.
As I mentioned before, chemistry between the two officers is vital in making a quality buddy cop movie. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan have moments that will make you roll on the floor in "Rush Hour." There is not better combination of the cop who dives head first into the action and the other cop who would rather be doing anything else than Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in "Lethal Weapon." Even Wahlberg's previous foray into the buddy cop genre, "The Other Guys" starring opposite Will Ferrell, turns the funny up to 11.
But Wahlberg and Duke have no chemistry in this film, nor anyone else on the screen. Not his brash Boston ex-girlfriend. Not his ex-partner. Not even Henry, who we're supposed to believe is one of Spenser's oldest friends.
There's nothing playful about Wahlberg and Duke's interactions. They're wooden, acting as if their mothers made them make the movie. It's tough when they're together, but Wahlberg struggles to break out of monotone line readings and exposition dumping with every chance he gets.
I enjoy some of Wahlberg's movies as a guilty pleasure. He usually plays characters who haven't grown out of adolescence and are taken advantage of because of the character's innocence. Wahlberg plays those characters well, but rarely does he get underneath the surface level of a performance. There's no emotional depth in the characters he's portraying, and I'm not sure that's a script problem.
He's easily got one of the most interesting careers in Hollywood. He started as a boy band lead singer to Calvin Klein model to working with some of the best directors in Hollywood to where he is now as one of the most frequently working action stars.
Watching Wahlberg in movies like "Boogie Nights," "The Lovely Bones" and "The Departed" makes me believe in his acting ability. But watching his performance in Peter Berg films and other meathead action films shows me that he's interested in chasing paychecks at this point in his career.
Many will stream this film on Netflix, but it should be noted that films like this are a dime a dozen on the streaming platform. For every "Roma," it feels like nine movies similar to "Spenser Confidential" pop up.
Netflix is clearly more interested in bolstering their library than making quality movies. Not everything needs to be an Oscar contender, but, my goodness, they could put the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year towards much better movies.
Matthew Lambert has written for RiverTown Multimedia for almost three years. Prior to joining the company, Lambert graduated from Winona State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication: Journalism and a minor in Film Studies. Lambert will try any film once, but if he had his choice a Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson film would be his choice.