Streaming Fury: SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL
Let’s face it, the days of seeing b-action films on the big screen are over. Luckily, most of us have pretty big screens at home. Streaming Fury is a weekly column in which I scour streaming platforms for hard-asses and the explosions they casually walk away from.
Before I get into SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL, I need to make a heartfelt apology.
The purpose of this column is to cover action films that are exclusive to streaming. That could be from any platform but it’s really going to be from Netflix because Amazon only buys comedies and dramas and I don’t really know what’s going on with Hulu’s movie originals. I don’t have the Apple one and would prefer to keep pretending Quibi doesn’t exist until it turns out I’m right.
Last week I covered JOHN HENRY. I just assumed it was a Netflix original and didn’t look to see if that little N was in the top left corner. Turns out, it wasn’t. JOHN HENRY is just a regular movie, not a streaming exclusive.
To err is human. Mistakes happen even to the best of us. Nevertheless, I remain ashamed of my actions and pray you can all forgive me. I don’t go into these articles with a passive attitude toward their publication. This is serious business. I take it seriously. Seriously, I do.
I promise this will not happen again. And when it does happen again, it'll be because I have changed the nature of the column so quietly no one even notices. If they even noticed this time.
I know I’ve let you down, and I take that disappointment to heart. I have conferred with my therapist about this and we are exploring a new medication regimen that will help ease the pain I’ve caused. My wife and I are seeing a marriage counselor, and my children have been put in foster care until a government official has deemed our house safe again.
Furthermore, any proceeds earned from last week’s article will be donated to a charity I will choose just as soon as there are proceeds from last week’s article to donate. I also suspended my own employment for two hours earlier today while a maintenance worker came over to fix my refrigerator.
The more I apologize, the less sincere it probably seems. Still, I would like to risk one more. I apologize to you. I apologize to JOHN HENRY. I apologize to Netflix. And I apologize to myself.
So SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL. Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg together again. Except it’s really the first time for me because I missed all their other movies. Peter Berg’s Michael Bay-lite style is fine for something silly like BATTLESHIP or whatever, but the idea of mixing it with true tragedies rubs me the wrong way. I know that doesn’t apply to MILE 22. That one I missed just because I missed it.
Additionally, I’m not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan. I like him when playing characters who are funny or angry, but can’t get into him in unironic hero mode because he always feels like a guy who would love to beat the shit out of me for accidentally looking at him.
And so it is with no small amount of personal confusion that I admit some love for SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL. I am going to work through my feelings in list form…
Reason I Like This Movie #1: Mark Wahlberg Constantly Gets His Ass Kicked
There are a lot of fights in SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL, and Wahlberg loses just about all of them. He gets beaten by four cops in a bathroom, he gets beaten by a bunch of guys with machetes in a taco restaurant, he even gets his ass handed to him by a dog at one point. This is all especially rich because he’s supposed to be some kind of skilled boxing trainer.
Reason I Like This Movie #2: It’s Old School
How old school is SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL? Well, when Wahlberg has his main bad guy at gunpoint, instead of cuffing him, he puts the gun down so they can have a fistfight. It's a move I haven't seen in a while. And to revisit point #1, Wahlberg spends most of the fistfight losing.
As you probably know, SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL is based on a TV show called SPENSER FOR HIRE, which was based on a series of novels. This Spenser guy has a lot of history and isn’t a product of the current era. As such, the Wahlberg iteration feels a bit out of time. He’s a wisecracking private eye type. That combined with the abuse he withstands and a central conspiracy plot puts the film more in the fake Shane Black camp than the fake Michael Bay camp. It turns out this is a good match for both Berg and W.Berg.
Reason I Like This Movie #3: Winston Duke
Unlike Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke hasn’t stared in a million vanity movies since the ‘90s. You can’t take front and center Winston Duke performances for granted. And he is great in this. His Hawk is an unflappable giant with a big, sensitive heart. He wants to be a boxer but sucks at it and only really helps Spenser because they get along and it’s the right thing to do. The first half of the film works less because Hawk isn’t around as much. When the two become full-fledged partners, this thing really gets charming.
Reason I Like This Movie #4: The Rest Of The Supporting Cast
Is it basic as hell to cast Alan Arkin as a grumpy old man? Yes, but there is a reason it works. Is there a weird ladies have cooties vibe to Iliza Shlesinger’s ball-busting, cartoonishly Boston girlfriend Cissy? Probably but she’s really funny. I like seeing Marc Maron basically play himself in things and Bokeem Woodbine is always a welcome face. The film also features Shia LaBeouf as a prison character named Post Malone who I liked even with his over the top presentation.
I’ll probably end up saying this a lot in this column, but it’s crazy that we live in a time where a movie with this wattage of talent gets made exclusively for streaming. Even if I have mixed feelings about that talent, these names are nuts. It’s even crazier that they set this one up for sequels, like it’s going to be a full series of films. That’s probably not going to happen but I wouldn’t mind if it did. Up is down these days, so why not.