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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mile 22

There is a moment in Mile 22 that gave me pause and concern.  It happens early on in the film, and concerns a scene where Mark Wahlberg is talking to two women in a cafe.  The editing during their conversation seemed very fragmented.  It would only show one person's face in the frame, and as soon as someone else started talking, it would cut in a very jerky manner to the next person.  The camera just kept on jumping around the people gathered around the table, almost as if the filmmakers were afraid to put more than one person in the frame at the same time.  It got to the point that I was so distracted that I could not really focus on what the characters were talking about.

Unfortunately, my mood did not improve as the movie went on.  Despite the presence of director Peter Berg and Wahlberg (who have worked together previously on Lone Survivor, Patriot's Day and Deepwater Horizon), they are both cast adrift here by a nothing plot, and a bunch of characters who are impossible to root for, because they basically act like giant jerks for 90 minutes, and much of their dialogue consists of them insulting and swearing at each other.  The editing also never improves.  If anything, it gets even worse as the film goes on.  The shootouts and chases that make up a majority of the film's middle portion are filmed incomprehensibly.  This is one of those movies where you sometimes can't tell who is doing what to whom, or what they're even doing in the first place.  It's all a lot of fast action, jerky motions and rapid-fire cutting that means nothing and leaves no impact on the viewer.

The plot centers on an officer from a Southeast Asian country named Li Noor (Iko Uwais from The Raid films), who has turned on his corrupt government and holds information that can help stop a nuclear threat.  He will only give up that information if he is given protected political asylum and is safely transported to the U.S.  Tasked with transporting Li to the plane that will take him to America is James Silva (Wahlberg) and his team of expert soldiers.  We are introduced to James and his team in a prologue action sequence (a raid on a house in the suburbs that is a front for some Russian villains) that is just as incoherent as everything else on display, and tells us nothing about James and his group other than they are not likable enough to headline an action film.  Two of the other members of the team are played by Lauren Cohan (from TV's The Walking Dead) and Ronda Rousey, who despite her experience as an MMA fighter, never once gets an action sequence.  John Malkovich also turns up to cash a paycheck as Wahlberg's superior.

He is not alone, as it seems everyone is simply here just to get paid.  Mile 22 creates no tension in its premise, and the jerky editing ensures that the fighting never thrills.  Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if the fighting did not make up roughly 60% of the film.  Once Silva and his teammates are tasked with transporting Li out of the country safely, they start getting attacked from all sides by various people who want Li dead.  They can't go anywhere without running into psychotic bikers, martial arts women, and gun nuts.  This could have been thrilling if the movie just cared about these fights in the first place.  Instead, the focus seems to be on the broken bones and flowing blood that always ends the battles.  And of course, since we know absolutely nothing about anyone who inhabits this movie, the audience has the same reaction watching them killing each other as they do looking at a wad of gum on the sidewalk.

It's been reported that the character Wahlberg plays was originally written as an antagonist, until both Berg and his star decided to make him the main character.  This is confusing on many levels, least of which, why did they think anyone would like the insufferable jerk that Wahlberg is forced to play here?  Also, if you're going to give the very talented Iko Uwais some fight scenes of his own, why not truly exploit what he can do?  Why hide it with such jerky and spastic editing?  It's like watching a Jackie Chan movie, and putting a blindfold on during the scenes when he starts to do his stuff.  And why introduce so many characters in your film if you're either not going to use them, or simply bump them off unceremoniously before we get a chance to know them?

I have a lot more questions I could ask, but I would rather stop thinking about Mile 22, so I think I will seize the moment and stop.


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