Spenser Confidential: A Big Promise, An Average Offering

Spenser Confidential

With the Coronavirus becoming more than a cause for little concern in the West, its impact on the economy is obvious. Since large gatherings are seen as bedding for the virus, cinemas would be hard hit. Already, the 007 franchise has postponed the last appearance of Daniel Craig as James Bond in “No Time To Die” billed for April to November. They didn’t mention Convid-19, but they didn’t have to – we know the handwriting on the wall. Streaming companies like Netflix stand to gain if the virus becomes a ravishing pandemic and states are put on lockdown like we see in Northern Italy, South Korea, and China. The quality of shows in Netflix is the major issue but it is one which their subscribers are okay with. And which, if push becomes shove, we will have to reduce our standard to fit in. The film “Spenser Confidential” is in the cusp of being enjoyed with cinematic excellence and reducing your standard.

Directed by Peter Berg, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg in the title role and marks the fifth collaboration between the duo. According to people who would know, they say the film “is very loosely based on the novel ‘Wonderland’ by Ace Atkins”. Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland wrote the screenplay while Wahlberg and Berg co-produced with Neal H. Moritz. The cast and crew and the first scene promised a lot.

The film is about a police officer who was disgraced out of the force for beating up his corrupt captain in the Boston Police Department. He went to prison for five years. When Mark Wahlberg’s character comes out of prison, he resolves to start life afresh, far from Boston. He enrolls in a truck driving school. But things happen quickly. The Captain he beat up played by Michael Gaston is beheaded on the night of Spencer’s release. Spenser is the suspect but not for long. A black officer, Terrence Graham, murdered on the same day is framed for the murder and it is passed as a murder-suicide.

Spenser watches Terrence widow crying on TV and saying it is impossible that her husband did something this terrible and he wouldn’t kill himself and leave his son just like that. This is common sense but for the movie to proceed the way the writers want it, no one pays attention to her. If this was real life, the media will not let it go; they would constantly hammer and demand answers and the police department won’t settle for the cheap outlet of one man carrying out the whole execution – they would look for his accomplices and why. Of course, the whole Police Department can’t be corrupt. If so, the State Police may be involved. Private investigators, an ad-hoc committee, the full treatment.

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But we see none of this because it doesn’t make plot sense to them. The movie has no interest in imitating real-life when fantasy can sell. Instead, we see the corrupt captain get a city burial with 21-gun salutations, with endless motorcades, and with the mayor and maybe the Governor of Massachusetts and Trump in attendance. In contrast, the framed officer is given a quiet church funeral with Spenser the only outsider in attendance.

The fights, the pursuit, the investigations

Spenser recruits his new roommate Hulk an amateur kickboxer Winston Duke to help him unravel the case. Everywhere, Spenser steps in, he is beaten up and thrown outside by the police who hate him for beating his captain but really for pop-nosing. Or he is torn or nearly torn apart by an angry dog for trespassing. Or thugs come on him at a Mexican restaurant. The fight scenes where average with Spenser getting so many last-minute rescues from his buddy Hulk.

There is no much of an investigation because the corruption in the police force is not so much a hidden story. The press knows about it. One reporter, in particular, has been following the story but won’t publish it because it will be tagged fake story. He even has a video-evidence where the police brutally lynch a human rights activist Gloria Wisnewski. But he won’t table this video-evidence because it will be termed doctored. This is bulls of course but that is how the writers want it. It turns out that before he died, the framed Terrence was murdered, he was wearing a wire. Those who murdered him somewhat failed to grab the wire and only make a haphazard search for it later on. The wire is with Terrence’s widow but somehow, she refuses to listen to it.

Spenser takes the wire to the FBI and they say it is not enough evidence. People have been thrown to jail for evidence as simple as Calibri MS Word font but this is a movie where audio and video footage do not count. The director kept living in denial until the 1 hour 40 minute-mark; he let the film resolved. It will be unduly harsh to call the end anti-climatic but it has no claim, whatsoever, to climax. The fact that Spenser rather than arrest his former partner who turns out to be the ring leader in the police arm of the drug ring emptied his pistol of bullets and say let’s fight is a source of irritation.

Will there be Spencer Confidential 2?

The answer should be an angry “why should there be?” but this won’t be seen as objective. This film was supposed to be an action-comedy, but it wasn’t funny. It was supposed to be a crime movie but the crime solved itself without any earth-shaking investigative inputs from its protagonists – the only comedic scenario comes from the cluelessness of the FBI agents in the movie. Tag-team movies can even go without a plot, sustained by the sheer fireworks of its characters like we saw with Hobbs and Shaw. Hulk and Spenser are not spectacular.

There would be “Spenser Confidential” 2 because it is Netflix and because this is the Age of Franchise. I remember watching “6 Underground” and hating it but even the film has more claim at a franchise than “Spenser Confidential”. The film “Spenser Confidential” did not make a case for a part two. The end of the film sees someone getting arrested for “church fire” and he is screaming his lungs out that he is innocent and needs help and we see Spenser’s eyes narrowing and we are sure he would be kicking ass to solve this one in the next series.


Image source: Indiewire.com

About Amos JC 33 Articles
Amos JC is the head of movies and TV content.