Forget “Alpha,” here’s the REAL “dog of August” at the movies — “Mile 22” — an antic, nonsensical and bloody B-movie amped up by Mark Wahlberg’s motor-mouthed character and the savage, sadistic martial arts stylings of Iko Uwais.
Wahlberg’s go-to director, Peter Berg, has spent a lot of Chinese production money on a Hollywood-ized version of the Indonesian action pic “The Raid” or “The Raid 2,” which starred Uwais.
It’s a big ol’swing and a miss of a movie, a thriller whose frantic, crazy-quilt editing can’t hide how static and motionless it often feels, whose laptop-loads of punchlines don’t cover the inanity of every sentence.
“You think you know about election hacking? You think you know the definition of ‘collusion?’ You know nothin’.”
Wahlberg plays Silva, a faster-than-fast-talking team leader of “Overwatch,” an elite off-the-books team of ex-CIA “problem solvers” who only exist in the movies and the fever dreams of a delusional public speaker whose every paragraph ends with “Believe me.”
“Diplomacy is ‘option one,'” Silva breathlessly blurts through in a mission debrief that frames “Mile 22.” “Option two is military. We’re the third option. We solve problems on short notice.”
Such as when nine pounds of radioactive cesium disappears in a country-not-named Indonesia. A rogue cop, Li Noor (Uwais) shows up at the U.S. Embassy with a coded gizmo that reveals the locations of the “discs” of the “dirty-bomb” ingredients. Fly him out of the country and he’ll give you the code.
Oh, and the info? It will self-destruct in mere hours. His information will recover the cesium AND “bring down a government.” Whose?
Get him from the embassy to a disused airstrip twenty-two miles away, and spirit him to safety. Simple, right?
With a team of cyber-wizards directed by “Mother” (John Malkovich) to tap into everything from the power grid to every blueprint for a building on the planet, hackable cars stuck in traffic and CCTV cameras, drone over-views, all of it inter-linked via radio, Silva’s squad (Lauren Cohen, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban among them) should be able to convey this “package” to the plane.
Except that locals, led by the sadistic Axel (Sam Medina), have legions of…wait for it…motorcycle assassins. And SUVs stuffed with henchmen armed to the teeth, all of whom have other plans.
It’s just that we’ve seen their first attempt on Li’s life. Handcuffed to a gurney or not, the guy is a Beast from the Southeast (Asia). Killing him is going to be no easier than transporting him.
Those are the keeper scenes, here, not the shootouts, the epic moments of “sacrifice” from the team, the endless torrent of Wahlberg wisecrackery. Uwais delivers breathtaking action beats via his epic beatdowns, insanely violent fights helped along insane editing.
The guy makes a great take-no-prisoners sadist. Assaulted in a car, Li busts the villain’s head through the car window, then DRAGS his neck across the jagged glass remains of that window. Back. And forth. And back again.
Berg made Wahlberg do shots of Red Bull before every take, creating an out-of-his-comfort-zone “performance” (“Manic? Narcissistic? Bipolar?”) that is simply exhausting, not exhilarating. Endless blasts of banter, pithy one-liners to his “team,” generally hurled at inopportune moments.
“You’re never gonna do something WRONG until die!”
“Try that Jesus guy, they say he’s very FORGIVING.”
“Didn’t they teach you ANYthing about cesium at Harvard?”
Wahlberg makes you wish the movie was finishing up with every breath-gulping line. The pace of his high-pitched barking contrasts with the slow-moving film. When you have the bad guys pause, every so often, to give the “heroes” a breather, you never get where you’re going.
It smells like the classic “franchise” that’s died of crib death — “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” “Alex Rider: Stormbreaker,” etc.
There’s no conviction to any of this, and the mad scramble of words suggests they’re firing all these jibberish pronouncements over the heads of people impressed by antic, nonsense tweets, a movie with a “great game” subtext (Russian villains, yet Americans CAUSING Russian malfeasance) that strains to muddy the waters with misinformation and murkiness where the world sees clarity, and leaves a seriously sour taste in its mouth. Yes, there are news clips of Trump hinting at the existence of suicide squads like this, which only exist in the movies.
He’s confused. As you will be.
Because aside from its myriad other sins, whose side is this dog on, the Chinese financiers? The Russians? The Russian Apologist in Chief? QAnon?
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich, Sam Medina, Ronda Rousey
Credits:Directed by Peter Berg, script by Lea Carpenter. An STX release.
Running time: 1:35