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'Mile 22' review: Action-packed fictional tale lacks believability

Mark Wahlberg plays CIA operative Jimmy Silva in

Mark Wahlberg plays CIA operative Jimmy Silva in Peter Berg's fictional shoot-em-up "Mile 22." Credit: STXfilms/Murray Close

PLOT A team of American operatives must help an informant escape his country.

CAST Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais

RATED R (graphic violence)

LENGTH 1:35

BOTTOM LINE An entertaining but lesser effort from the “Patriots Day” team of Wahlberg and Peter Berg.

“The Great Game continues,” covert operative Jimmy Silva tells a roomful of bureaucrats in “Mile 22.” He seems to be referring to politics, spy craft and the modern Cold War, but he could also be talking about the movie business. Silva is played by Mark Wahlberg, who is directed by Peter Berg in what marks their fourth collaboration after such hits as “Lone Survivor” and “Patriots Day.” Action-driven entertainment is a game these two play extremely well.

“Mile 22,” though, isn’t one of their strongest efforts. It delivers plenty of action but not a lot of thrills, and its copious bloodshed comes from characters who aren’t fully fleshed out. Previous Berg-Wahlberg movies "Survivor" (2013) and "Patriots" (2016) have been based on real-life events — an Afghanistan War operation and the Boston Marathon bombing, respectively — but “Mile 22” is the first cut from whole cloth fiction, which may be its main weakness: Little if anything in this movie feels real.

Silva is part of the CIA’s little-known Ground Branch division (all right, that’s real), though when necessary his team can renounce American citizenship and go rogue with help from an all-seeing surveillance unit, Overwatch (probably not real, but who knows). Tense talk of a missing cache of radioactive material lays the groundwork for the coming plot, which kicks into gear when Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a cop in the Southeast Asian city of Indocarr (totally not real), walks into an American embassy. He makes an offer: The location of the material in exchange for asylum.

From there, “Mile 22” becomes a race to an extraction point 22 miles away. Silva’s team (a multiethnic and -gender group played by Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey and Carlo Alban) is attacked by armed motorcyclists, corrupt cops and possibly Russians, though it’s hard to tell. (As Silva explains, “nobody ever knew who was on whose side.”) Meanwhile, back at an undisclosed location, Overwatch honcho Bishop (played by a wry John Malkovich) conducts his team of hackers like a symphony orchestra.

Devised by first-time screenwriter Lea Carpenter, “Mile 22” relies too much on world-weary Le Carre-esque dialogue and overplays Silva’s supposed brilliance when it ought to be giving us more of Uwais, a kinetic Indonesian fighter-actor appearing in his first major U.S. movie role. “Mile 22” ends with hints of a possible “Sicario”-style franchise, which means its Great Game might indeed continue.

Wahlberg's best

The man once known as hip-hop artist Marky Mark has certainly proved himself a versatile film actor. Mark Wahlberg has done action, comedy, drama, even horror (remember 2008's “The Happening”?). Here are four of his best movies to date:

Boogie Nights (1997) Some might say this is still the best film from Wahlberg and director Paul Thomas Anderson — a funny-sad look at the once-glamorous porn industry, starring Wahlberg as a naturally gifted actor named Dirk Diggler.

The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese gave Wahlberg another stamp of credibility by casting him in this modern mob classic alongside Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

Ted (2012) Seth MacFarlane’s R-rated fable about an overgrown man-boy (Wahlberg) and his living, breathing teddy bear was one of the better comedies of its ilk: Oversexed and raunchy, yet warm and fuzzy.

Patriots Day (2016) Wahlberg and his frequent director-collaborator Peter Berg hit a high point with this dramatization of the events around the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Politics and sentimentality are kept to a minimum in the service of a crisp, crackling action movie.


 

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