(director: Peter Berg; screenwriters: The “Wonderland” novel by Ace Atkins/Brian Helgeland/Sean O’Keefe/characters by Robert B. Parker; cinematographer: Tobias A. Schliessler; editor: Michael L. Sale; music: Steve Jablonsky; cast: Mark Wahlberg (Spenser), Alan Arkin (Henry), Iliza Shlesinger (Cissy), Winston Duke (Hawk), Bookeem Woodbine (Driscoll), Michael Gaston (Captain Boylan); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Peter Berg; Netflix; 2020)

When all’s said and done, the film is forgettable.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Peter Berg (“Mile 22″/”Patriots Day”) helms this jokey action pic, a buddy pic, and botches it with clumsy execution and too many unfunny gags. It’s based on the 2013 “Wonderland” novel by Ace Atkins, and is written by Brian Helgeland and Sean O’Keefe. The characters are by Robert Parker (who is deceased and his franchise has been taken over by Ace Atkins). They are pulled from the beloved long-running Spenser TV literary crime series. It’s the fifth time Berg and star Wahlberg worked together.

The former Boston cop, Spenser (Mark Wahlberg), has just been released from a five-year stay in Walpole. His crime was beating the dickens out of the domestic abuser precinct captain (Michael Gaston). On the day before his release, Spenser gets jumped in the library by Aryan Nation thugs. 

On the same day his elderly boxing trainer mentor, the cantankerous Henry (Alan Arkin), picks him up from prison, the same corrupt police boss Spenser beat up is found dead in a schoolbus depot. Our boy is the prime suspect. Also a younger cop Spenser knows to be an honest cop, is killed and in his house drugs are found in a search.

Spenser’s ambition on his release was to get a trucker’s license and move to Arizona. But he now feels, badge or no badge, he has to investigate these incidents and clear his name.

Along for the ride are Winston Duke as Hawk, he’s Spenser’s calming influence and loyal bud. Stand-up comic Iliza Schlesinger is the hero’s romantic interest and offers comic relief as a caricature of a Southie woman. Bokeem Woodbine does his usual sinister turn. The cast is fine, and Wahlberg is tailor-made for the misunderstood Boston cop role.

But when all’s said and done, the film is forgettable.


REVIEWED ON 7/26/2020  GRADE: C+