Spenser Confidential - Netflix film review

★★★

Directed by #PeterBerg

Written by #SeanOKeefe, #BrianHelgeland

Starring #MarkWahlberg, #WinstonDuke, #AlanArkin

Film Review by Amber Jackson

This suspenseful action-comedy follows Spenser (Mark Wahlberg), an ex-cop newly released from prison, who follows the mystery of his ex-boss’ murder with aspiring fighter and roommate Hawk (Winston Duke). The pair embark upon an ex-con detective chase and begin to uncover dirty deeds within their community of Southie, Boston. Based on the book series by Robert B. Parker, later 80s television series ‘Spenser: For Hire,’ it appears it didn’t quite live up to prior expectations.

The plot thickens at every turn, with Spenser’s search for social justice ultimately putting him in danger. He considers the possibility that every crime he encounters is connected to previous police cover-ups and a murder conspiracy that he tried to expose. Wahlberg excels at playing a character complicated by a deep sense of moral duty and a man struggling to culturally adjust to normality again. The script teems with hilarious cultural references that Spenser has missed from spending the last five years in prison and this modern twist to his narrative allows the film to greater thrive. His brotherly dynamic with Hawk is truly the shining point when watching, as both Wahlberg and Winston adopt Batman and Robin-esque personalities and allow their lines to bounce off one another in fast-paced scenes of drugs, drama and wannabe detective work.

However, elements of the film falter from the start, making it difficult to follow. Character relationships are confusing, particularly with Henry (Alan Arkin) who is a brilliant and comedic character in his own right, but dips in and out with minimal explanation. One thing that is made explicit is that Spenser is always trying to do the best for the women that surround him and this is reflected well in Wahlberg’s characterisation. However, the script just about misses the mark and the film ultimately ends up being a showdown of masculinity – which it is ultimately intended to be. Despite these weaker points, the film picks up further into screen-time and dives into the character relationships more. Spenser’s girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend, not entirely clear) Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger) is given greater complexity in the latter half of the film, adding a much-needed extra layer of comedy to Spenser and Hawk’s journey.

Other parts of the film are fairly predictable, particularly towards the end, with the fight and stand-off scenes, but they were still enjoyable to watch nonetheless. The entire piece feels as though it should be a Netflix original series, as the plot feels a little crammed into a two-hour film. It could have taken greater advantage of this style, given that it is on the Netflix platform. Spenser Confidential does not offer much deviation or originality within the context of cop action-comedy films. However, it seeks to charm audiences with its witty dialogue and visually colourful scenes and it succeeds in both.

#AmberJackson