Spenser Confidential – Review

Solid at times but overall forgettable.

There is little that Netflix’s Spenser Confidential does to separate itself from the droves of other crime-drama films. The plot is predictable, the tone is all over the place, and it wastes the talents of what is a really talented cast. The action is solid, but there aren’t any memorable set pieces.

It feels like the cast could’ve wasted their time elsewhere.

Stop now if you’ve heard this before, a disgraced former cop is forced back into the life he left to independently investigate the wrongdoings of his former peers. Yes, this is a film that appears at least twice a year, but this time its produced by Netflix. While there were a number of ways this film could’ve gone, such as a dark and gritty thriller or a buddy cop film. It ultimately ended up trying to do too many things and didn’t nail any of them.

There were multiple times where I was confused at the direction of the film. What’s unfortunate is that this occurs throughout the entirety of its runtime. It will try to be fun and lighthearted one moment but will then will plunge into darkness the next moment. With the constant tonal shifts, it was difficult to actually get a feel for what was happening on screen. It was practically impossible to empathize with any of the characters and the unfortunate circumstances they found themselves in.

This is a shame when you consider the cast. Mark Wahlberg does his best as the titular Spenser, a former police officer who has a strong moral code but a short temper which constantly gets him into trouble. After he is released from prison, he is picked up by his mentor Henry, played by the fantastic and funny Alan Arkin, as Spenser plans to move on from his previous life by becoming a truck driver in Arizona. But, as it usually happens in these films, the plot gets in the way of these plans and he is forced to team up with his roommate Hawk, an aspiring MMA fighter played by Winston Duke, who will end up begrudgingly joining Spenser in his investigation.

Duke is, for whatever reason, relegated to mostly acting as a background character and feels like he is going through the motions because this is a far cry from his performances in Black Panther and Us. There is no pop to his character, yes, he’s intimidating, but beyond that there is nothing really memorable. It’s really disappointing because he is an incredibly talented actor, but it feels as if the script wanted Hawk to be the strong and silent type, which Duke does admirably, but it would’ve been far better to see more of his personality.

Rounding out the talented cast is the underrated Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, Michael Gaston, and Iliza Shlesinger. The true standout being Iliza, who’s thick, obnoxious, Boston accent really brings humor to the film. Even though she still feels out of place at times, especially with the evershifting tones, but she steals whatever scene her character happens to appear in. The rest of the cast try to make the film work by pushing the narrative forward, but this is a by the numbers tale so its best keep your expectations low.

Ultimately, It really feels like this should’ve been a series instead of a film. The characters need more depth and almost everything that happens in the film is predictable. Spenser Confidential has its moments, but there is no real flow, because as the film builds momentum, it introduces new exposition frequently that halts progress. This is the type of potential franchise that is looking to build outwards but is restricted because its formatted as a film. Its unfortunate, as this could’ve been so much more.

In the end, this film is good for a viewing, but nothing more.

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