Sometimes, a performer and a director just click. You've got your Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, your Tim Burton and your Johnny Depp and your Adam McKay and Will Ferrell duos, for example. In recent years, the pairing of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg has proved to work quite well and Mile 22, their fourth excursion together, is maybe their least effective flick to date as a director/actor combo. That said, they had set the bar pretty high previously and you could do a whole lot worse for some late summer action fun. This movie is very entertaining and effective, even if it is a little rough around the edges.
Mile 22 centers on highly skilled yet very temperamental and hot-headed CIA operative James Silva, played by Mark Wahlberg. He leads a small but lethal top-secret military team who find themselves on an urgent, dangerous and very complex mission. They're tasked with transporting a foreign intelligence asset, who holds the key to saving thousands of lives, from an American embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction. And how far away is this extraction point from the embassy? 22 miles, naturally. Silva and his team, as one might expect, find themselves up to their ears in gunfire as things go very wrong, very fast and it's a race against the clock to get this man to safety.
I'm not an inherently negative guy when it comes to movies. Especially this kind of thing. I value the entertainment axis of moviemaking very highly. I'm not going to watch Mark Wahlberg blow stuff up good because I want a lot of deep artistic value for my money. Mile 22 doesn't falter in any way because it's trying to be something it's not. It's not desperately aiming for that art axis to try and prove a point. That I can say with confidence. It's an action flick with a defined purpose and it carries out that purpose successfully. What I can say is that this is a movie that somewhat frustratingly gets in its own way a bit.
This thing is a bit quirky at times when it doesn't need to be quirky. Not to spoil it, but there's a running thing that borders on intolerable with our leading man that gets old quick. It's also a bit messy in to start and takes a little time to settle down in order to get to the meat. Plus, there are some stylistic choices, in terms of narrative devices and editing, that don't do the movie any favors. The biggest problem is that these imperfections are a bit jarring. They add up and it's a case of quite a few little things feeling relatively substantial. It feels like there was possibly some sweeter juice to squeeze from this particular bag of fruit, were it squeezed a bit differently.
Gripes out of the way, there is no denying that Peter Berg has turned himself into a damn fine action director. Even going back to The Rundown, which was maybe Dwayne Johnson's first truly great starring vehicle, it was clear Berg had something in that respect. Mile 22 is another win in that department. For that reason, there's a lot more shuffled to the plus column on this one. There are some excellent action set pieces and once we get to the meat of this 22-mile on-the-clock chase sequence/bullet parade, it's a blast and it moves at a blistering pace. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the guy who directed two of the most underrated and underseen movies of 2017, Patriot's Day and Deepwater Horizon, only seems to be getting better at crafting action sequences as his career rolls on.
Undoubtedly, Peter Berg had some help this time around in the form of Iko Uwais. If you've seen The Raid movies, this is the man that turned those into instant action classics and he not only stars in this thing, giving it some serious gravitas in the fisticuffs department, but he helped choreograph all of the fight sequences. It really shows. The editing gets in the way of these sequences a bit at times, but the hand to hand stuff is still a key reason to check out Mile 22. No spoilers, but this movie contains, without a doubt, one of the most brutal and inventive kills I've ever seen in a mainstream movie.
Lauren Cohan of Walking Dead fame also gets a shot to shine on the big screen here and she does a pretty great job with what she's given. All of that time killing zombies has prepared her for a future as an action star. Ronda Rousey also shows up and, sorry to say, her acting chops haven't improved much. That said, Peter Berg knew how to use her the right way. Mark Wahlberg is right at home leading this movie, though, this isn't one of his better performances as an actor. He's hamming it up quite a bit when he's not busy wasting bad guys. That said, it serves the movie he's in. This was never meant to be a prestige sort of thing.
It's refreshing, despite some frustration over certain decisions that seem to get in the way of a more streamlined, perhaps better movie, to feel that everyone knows exactly what kind of movie they're making. It's a mid-budget action thriller. The kind that Hollywood just doesn't make that often anymore, it feels. In that sense, it's refreshing. Especially since this isn't heading straight to Netflix or a Redbox near you. This is a legit, well-intentioned studio movie with very satisfying action and thrills aplenty. If you need a fix in that department, STX's Mile 22 should do you just fine.