Film Review: Mile 22

Secret agents must extract a valuable asset before local and Russian killers find him in a sloppy but effective thriller.
Major Releases

New paint can't hide the worn-out frame behind Mile 22, a gung-ho workout that pairs Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg for the fourth time. Cribbing from themselves as well as tons of other action films, they manage to throw enough firepower on the screen to placate genre fans.

Wahlberg's Jimmy Silva, a motormouth agent with a lot tics, is in a top-secret government program loosely known as "Overwatch." Trained to kill as a young orphan, he's now the go-to guy when playing by the rules doesn't work.

Silva's surrounded himself with similar misfits, like absentee mom Alice (Lauren Cohen), who's in a messy divorce while running an informant in the teeming but generic Southeast Asian city of Indocarr. Embassy espionage boss Johnny Porter (Terry Kinney) wants Silva's team to find and recover enough missing radioactive cesium to destroy six cities.

Alice's informant, Indocarr cop Li Noor (Iko Uwais), brings an encrypted hard drive with the location of the cesium to the embassy. He won't give up the password unless he's brought to the U.S. Getting him to the airport from the embassy will require crossing 22 urban miles filled with killers and assassins.

Yes, it's just like the plot of 16 Blocks or one of the Expendables or some of Safe House or Berg's own The Rundown. There are set-pieces in a bakery, with a bunch of motorcyclists, in an apartment complex (with stunts copied from Berg's The Kingdom). Many anonymous stuntmen are killed, as well as a few of Silva's team. Traitors are revealed, double-crosses are pulled, and viewers who aren't busy texting should be able to spot each and every plot twist well beforehand.

Berg and screenwriter Lea Carpenter add some timely slang and up-to-the-minute weaponry. They also intercut Silva's later debriefing, giving Wahlberg the chance to pontificate morosely about right and wrong. Some scenes of Overwatch leader Bishop (referred to as "Mother" and played by John Malkovich) surrounded by techies and surveillance monitors are actually engrossing.

Most viewers will be there for the body count, not subtleties like plotting. The action in Mile 22 is loud and splattery, cut so quickly that it's both impossible and pointless to keep track of what's happening. That's okay when Silva is spraying bullets, less interesting when Li Noor is fighting opponents in hand-to-hand combat. Martial artist Uwais, who excelled in the Raid franchise, is far more skilled than Mile 22 lets on. Even so, his fight scenes are the best moments in the movie.

Cohan deserves credit for bringing some humanity to her thinly written part. And Kinney is a good foil for Wahlberg, who will never be mistaken for the fast-talking savant the movie wants him to be. It's easy to feel superior to Mile 22, but why bother? Like Wahlberg's Silva, it does the job it sets out to do. There will be plenty of time for recriminations afterwards.