Kevin: Today CJ and I are bringing in a couple of guest contributors (friends of the site Michael and Rich) to help out on our review of Mark Wahlberg’s “Mile 22,” partly because the four of us saw the film together, but mainly because we needed as much help as possible to make sense of this thing. Because honestly a more accurate title for “Mile 22” would probably be “What the Fuck Just Happened?,” since I think we all asked that question multiple times both regarding the incomprehensibility of the action onscreen and the incomprehensibility of the story as it unfolded:
And that was hugely disappointing, as other than “Mission: Impossible” this was my most anticipated action movie of the summer, since it had an R-rating, was reuniting Wahlberg and director Peter Berg after they had previously collaborated on the well-done true-story trilogy “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “Patriots Day,” and it was finally giving Iko Uwais a chance to showcase his incredible martial arts skills to American viewers who perhaps have still have not discovered his movies like “The Raid.”
Also it had what should have been a foolproof concept: Wahlberg and Iko have to fight off a bunch of trained killers in order to escape a dangerous country by a certain deadline. At least that’s what I assumed the movie was about based on the trailer, since you’d have to go out of your way to fuck up such a simple premise that provided plenty of opportunities for Wahlberg to shoot people and Iko to beat them up in well-choreographed fight scenes. Well Berg said hold my beer, and somehow made the most dreary and unexciting version of this story you could imagine.
First, I have to say that it’s a bold choice to make the heroes of your film not only unlikable, but incompetent as well. We are told Wahlberg’s character is somewhat on the spectrum, which he mainly conveys by being a huge asshole to everyone, including knocking a birthday cupcake out of Ronda Rousey’s hands (actually I’d like to believe this was an actual attempt by the health-conscious Wahlberg to keep Rousey from packing on the pounds that Berg surreptitiously filmed and included in the movie).
Either way, his personality disorder somehow makes him great at his job, although I’m not sure how, since the entire movie turns out to be about how badly he and his team fuck up at every turn. They are pretty much the opposite of Ethan Hunt and his M:I team, and in fact I started to wonder if this Overwatch group he leads is actually the government’s JV squad they send in when Ethan is busy actually stopping important threats. Honestly if it wasn’t already taken, a better name for these guys would be “The Expendables,” since instead of the whole “Never leave a man behind” thing, Overwatch’s motto must be “Every man for themselves.” Apparently if you get even so much as a sprained ankle on a mission, standard operating procedure is for Wahlberg to hand you a couple of grenades and wish you luck.
Before I go further, what was the most incomprehensible moment in this movie for the rest of y’all? Was it the opening in which our “heroes” gun down a house full of Russians in a sequence in which we have no idea what is going on or why, but which will turn out to be incredibly important by the end? Any of the fight scenes where Iko probably did some great moves during the filming that we’ll never see since we can’t tell who the fuck is fighting who most of the time? The fact that the whole “let’s get out of the country” thread doesn’t even get going until more than halfway though this 85-minute movie? The arbitrary deadline that the plane taking them out of the country for some reason can only be on the runway for 10 minutes, which suddenly becomes a non-issue once they get there?
Or that in a movie with a bunch of fight scenes, they cast Ronda Rousey for her acting ability?
Michael: Most incomprehensible moment I think might have to go to the “climactic”(?) elevator lobby fight scene, simply due to the fact that it was clearly supposed to be the high point of the action: Iko versus five or six armed guys in close-quarters combat. I can’t say for sure how many opponents he had because of the, as noted, inexplicable choice to film in Shaky Bourne Cam with as many edit cuts as possible. I can’t believe that neither Peter Berg nor any of the people on set capable of influencing him have ever watched “The Raid” films, because if they had they might have told him to have an ounce of confidence in his action lead and just hold the camera steady at a medium distance for one goddamn minute.
Honorable incomprehensible mention could go to elements of the master plan revealed in the movie’s shocking final twist (spoiler alert!): Apparently Iko wasn’t just a double agent from Indocarr (don’t bother looking for it on the map) who was offering information about stolen nuclear material in exchange for escort out of his country. Instead he is a TRIPLE agent working for a Russian general(?) avenging the death of her son by Walhberg in the beginning. Also I guess her revenge was against all of Overwatch (not just Mark the child murderer), because she goes to the trouble of having Malkovich and his surveillance squad assassinated too.
But where was that squad operating from during the operation? I guess their GPS location was leaked when they were Trojan Horse hacked by Iko’s data file(?), but then how did the hit squad get there literally moments after Iko gave up the password and the file was decoded? Was it a bit of a letdown for the Russians that Mark didn’t get on that plane at the end with him (for no apparent reason we could think of or that was explained), thus depriving Iko of a chance to murder him as well?
Also a contender: the incomprehensible decision to end the movie by setting up a sequel that will NEVER get made.
CJ: I actually think the dumbest part of this movie was the opening scene as they case the house full of Russians before busting in. Did anyone else find it odd that the “Walking Dead’s” Lauren Cohan and Random Dude (who I found out later was former NHL d-bag Sean Avery!) had a LENGTHY argument over the address they were looking for? There’s no way the people in the house could have heard them. This means their only other “play” would have required them to get out of the car and do the super loud “HEY! I’M PRETTY SURE THE ADDRESS IS ELEVEN SEVENTY FIVE!” “NO LAUREN COHAN, IT WAS ELEVEN SEVENTY FOUR! BOY ARE WE LOST FOR THIS CHILD’S BIRTHDAY PARTY WE WERE INVITED TO!”
Based on what we see of their competence throughout the film, I also can’t believe they weren’t wearing their FBI jackets the whole time.
Michael: To answer CJ about the street name conversation in the car, it’s obvious that this group is a bunch of D-squad screw-ups, so I like to imagine that their commanding field officer made a point to insist that they practice on the way to the target house: “No goddamn it, you are not just going to ‘wing it’ when you get to the front door this time!”
CJ: Don’t you also put your best people on the undercover squad as well? So that means these two idiots are their best? How did it go when Wahlberg and Rousey tried to do it?:
Marky Mark: “IT’S ELEVEN FAWTY FAW!”
Rousey: “mumble mumble”
Marky Mark: “SHUT UP! YANKEES SUCK!”
Marky Mark: “HEY-A LOOK! LET’S BEAT UP THOSE MIN-AW-RATEEZ!”
Michael: The one moment of enjoyment I got out of the movie, maybe the only moment of creativity, was when Iko’s character told Wahlberg, “Say hi to your mother for me,” in what I have to imagine was a meta nod to “SNL’s” Andy-Samberg-doing-Wahlberg-impression.
Kevin: And I’m still not sure if that was some sly in-joke, since it would be completely at odds with the tone of this movie, which is otherwise so humorless and self-serious that I started to wonder if it was supposed to be based on a true story like the three previous Wahl/Berg joints. That moment also sets in motion what I guess was intended to be the mind-blowing “Usual Suspects”-type twist, which the supposedly brilliant Wahlberg character takes a looooooong time to figure out while he is driving away from the runway.
Of course it is unclear why he is leaving since I thought the whole point of the second half of the film was for all of them to get the fuck out of this country on the plane (does he have a time share in Indocarr he wanted to check on?). I’m also not sure what was supposed to happen had they gone even a minute past their arbitrary 10-minutes-on-the-runway deadline, since apparently they can waste anyone in their near vicinity with a drone strike at any time.
First I’ll note that my biggest “what the fuck just happened” moment occurred after Walhberg had his little face-to-face bro-down with the one dude outside the cafe, at which point he dodges a grenade thrown by … someone … and then is attacked by … a couple of female assassins, I guess? Hey don’t expect me to be able to tell you what was happening, all I did was watch the finished product on a giant screen, if I was actually on set when Iko apparently helped choreograph this fight scene maybe I could understand what was supposed to be going on. At least we get an appearance by Iko here, although I only know that because we get a quick glimpse of his shirt and hear him yell, after which Topher Grace could have been fighting in this scene for all I could tell.
And yeah it got so bad that during the apartment battle when Iko is about to face off against like six guys, instead of being giddy with anticipation for what awesome fisticuffs were about to ensue, I was by now just curious about how they were going to completely botch it. At this point Rich was so disgusted that he decided to walk out and wait for us at the nearest bar. Unfortunately Rich that means you missed the awesome twist that our heroes were just a bunch of dupes the entire time and that Iko was apparently raised as a child to be a Russian asset in Indocarr. I bet the female Russian general getting revenge for her son can’t wait to rub this in the faces of the other KGB higher-ups who questioned the point of spending so much time and money grooming an asset in an Asian country that doesn’t exist.
Rich: I don’t have much to add other than this was the single worst movie-going experience of my life. I have never walked out of a movie before (unless you count when my mom made us leave my birthday party viewing of “Ice Pirates”) …
… but this one earned that distinction. The final nail was the aforementioned “fight scene” where for sure something cool was supposed to happen. Iko was about to fight multiple assailants, clearly the only reason he was hired for this movie. Yet I don’t think I saw him actually connect with anyone due to the multiple camera cuts. At one point I think he was doing a really cool kick where he lands on his back and flips back up to his feet, but the way it was shot you couldn’t see his opponent, so it just looked like he was doing an exaggerated slip on a freshly mopped floor in hopes of a big lawsuit. If I could I’d go back and superimpose one of those folding yellow wet floor warning signs (“Cuidado! Piso mojado!”).
I left to wait for you guys in the bar and expected to see y’all in 30 minutes since nothing plot-wise was anywhere near resolved. Thankfully, even the director got tired of making this epileptic seizure of a movie and called it a day.
Kevin: Either way, now that the announcement of a “Mile 22: 2” is likely only days away, you are going to be really confused when we watch the sequel about why Walhberg and Iko are now enemies, while the rest of us will just be confused once again about every other aspect of the film.