By: Kevin Jordan
As I have been thinking about what to say about Mile 22, I spent some time perusing other reviews to see what other critics have been saying. Of note, the early-review embargo for Mile 22 was not lifted until Thursday, so pickings were slim. The initial consensus was that the movie is a brutal action flick with far too much action and that director Peter Berg edited the film – especially the action scenes – like a rabid chipmunk on crack. Also, that the film is a species of shit. While I agree with most of those sentiments, too much action? That is like complaining that a comedy has too many jokes or a porno has too much sex. This is not a problem.
The one thing those reviews barely mention (if at all) is that you have seen this movie before. Many times. The main plot is that a team of secret agents has a limited amount of time to escort an informant from point A to point B while a whole lot of people try to kill them. S.W.A.T., Babylon A.D., Safe House, you get the idea. There are plenty of others, but those three are the same level of quality of Mile 22. That *ahem* quality appears in the title – the distance between said point A and point B, but with bad grammar. Given how microscopically thin the characters and story are, that title makes perfect sense.
No fight scenes? You know I am Ronda Rousey, right?
James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) leads a team of paramilitary agents that are so secret and lethal, they are only called upon when diplomacy and the military failed. No, seriously, he tells us this, describing their operation (codenamed Overwatch) as option three. On the surface, this statement makes no sense whatsoever, but when you think about it for a minute, you get a headache. The film opens with Silva and team raiding a Russian FSB safe house and displaying why Silva and team are option three instead of option one or two. Using technology from a galaxy far, far away to peer through walls and locate five people in the house, they herd them into a sitting room where the team does not tie up the Russian spies and while one team member rummages through hard drives. Due to action movie cliche requirements, their magical x-ray drones miss a sixth person in the house and all hell breaks loose, ending with six dead Russians, one dead agent, and an exploded house. Silva is right – rolling a tank through the house was probably a better idea, but someone decided to skip straight to option three instead.
I have the hard drive you guys need because you are bad at your jobs.
Months later, in a country in southeast Asia that is not important enough to named by the film, the team is tracking down a supply of cesium. In case you do not know what cesium is, you will after Silva berates a team member with every scary cesium fact he knows because that team member has not cracked the uncrackable encryption of a hard drive in the five minutes since the last time he yelled at her. Speaking of which, Silva is an asshole. We are supposed to be forgiving of his assholiness because he is on the autism spectrum (implied) and had a rough childhood. In what passes for a backstory for Silva, we find out his mind works faster than everybody else’s, he is prone to violent outbursts, and his parents died in an accident when he was twelve, so of course he became a Jason Bourne type agent. The problem is that when he is not shooting bad guys, he is obnoxiously snapping a large yellow rubber band on his wrist (we are told this is to keep his emotions in check, which means he would otherwise be murdering everyone in Overwatch without it) while monologuing in the worst case of diarrhea-of-the-mouth outside of a certain president’s Twitter feed.
The problem with Silva’s backstory is that none of his traits are useful, including his so-called super fast mind. All it actually does is tell us why he was recruited as an agent, which does not matter to the movie or to the audience. But, at least he got a backstory. With the exception of agent Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) and the informant, Li Noor (Iko Uwais), not a single character is more than a trope, and Alice and Li only barely. There is a computer guy, a computer girl, another computer guy and another computer girl, a boss, another boss, three team members who probably had first names, and John Malkovich playing John Malkovich with a buzz cut.
I get it though. This is an action movie, so let me tell you a bit about the action. Those other critics are not wrong about the insane number of cuts shredding the visuals. But, that did not bother me. That is how most movies are these days and we are used to it. Do not get me wrong – I wish it would stop so we could actually see all of the choreography in the scenes. From what I could see, Iko Uwais appears to be an amazing martial artist kicking the ass of everyone near him. Also from what I could see, he grabs a guy by the head and rakes that guy’s neck back and forth over the broken glass of car door’s window frame. Cut away! Cut away!
In short, the film is a brutal action flick with nothing more to say than scary words like ouroboros and radioactive. The film fails in almost every way possible, including casting Ronda Rousey and not giving her a single fight scene (not kidding even a little bit). There is a good moment or two, especially an unexpected twist at the end, but you may be so numb from the brutal violence and Silva’s brutal dialogue to notice or care. It is too bad there was not an option four.
Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back and remember to snap that rubber band rather than the alternative.
By: Kevin Jordan
Great. Now I’m going to lose two days of my life.
One of the most confounding things that happens to me is when people ask if I’ve seen movie X and when I say “no,” they act shocked and become incredulous. My immediate response to that is “how many movies released last year did you see? Because I saw seventy.” And it’s always the so-called classics – “You’ve never seen Reservoir Dogs (gasp!)?” – “How have you never seen any of The Godfathers (double-gasp!!)?” – “You have to watch Blues Brothers (head-shake).” Etcetera, etcetera. I don’t necessarily blame them because people have an expectation that movie reviewers have seen every movie ever made. While it’s possible that some reviewers have seen every movie you name for them, those reviewers get paid to do that. I, on the other hand, do this in my spare time for free because I chose to be a cog in the corporate machine, so I have a lot less time to watch movies, not to mention I consume a fair amount of television as well. Incidentally, the same question happens with television shows and the answer is no, I have never seen even a minute of an episode of Entourage. Now, close your mouth before a fly flies in there.
My choice of movie screenings this week was Entourage and the annual Melissa McCarthy abomination, this year titled Spy. Normally, this would be an easy decision because McCarthy’s movies make me want to die, but I had to consider it because I’d never watched Entourage (the show) and there was a good chance I would hate Entourage (the movie) because I wouldn’t know who the characters were or get any of the inside jokes or references that would undoubtedly be splattered throughout the film. Ultimately, my loathing of McCarthy won out and I picked the movie that had eight seasons and 96 episodes of development preceding it, hoping they wouldn’t pull a Mad Max: Fury Road by expecting you to already know the characters. In other words, produce actual writing beyond “car explodes and bodies go flying.”
Even though I was going into the movie blind, I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew that there was a group of four dudes comprised of at least one actor and three dudes following him around, plus Jeremy Piven as said actor’s agent. Other than that – nothing. Much to my delight, the movie provided ample character introduction and even more development on top of what the show previously delivered. I won’t bore you with a recap of these five characters and neither does the movie, which does a great job of sprinkling historical information about the characters without making it seem like a history lesson. It’s this kind of thing that makes me wonder how HBO could have done such a good job with Entourage, yet shit the bed so badly with both Sex and the City movies (especially since Entourage and Sex And the City have essentially the same formula for its makeup).
The plot of Entourage (the movie) was the other thing I was worried about. Based on the previews, Ari (Piven) is now the head of a film studio and he wants Vince (Adrian Grenier) to star in his first movie. Vince agrees, but with the stipulation that he also gets to direct the film. I thought the rest of the film was going to be a struggle between Ari and Vince over additional finances, which sounded a lot like watching a sports movie where the main plot is going to be a contract dispute between a player and general manager. That doesn’t exactly sound riveting, not to mention confusing because Vince and Ari are supposed to be friends. Thankfully, that is only the catalyst for the actual plot – Ari trying to obtain the extra money from a couple of filthy rich, redneck Texans (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment). While that is going on, the other three guys each have their own subplots that have nothing to do with the main plot of the film. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is working on a relationship with Ronda Rousey (playing herself), Drama (Kevin Dillon) is trying to get another acting job, and E (Kevin Connelly) is juggling a pregnant ex and two absurdly hot women. While that might seem like loose writing on the surface, the various plotlines all work because this movie is ultimately about the five dudes’ friendship and how they help each other through their issues.
Besides the characters and their plots, there are a couple of other things that make the film work well. The first are the countless cameos of actors, athletes, and models scattered throughout the film. For as many as there were, a surprisingly low number of them felt forced (Tom Brady and Gary Busey for example) and even those worked as quick comedic gags. Of the ones that were exceptional, Richard Schiff’s stands out the most, reminding us why he was such a vital piece of The West Wing. The second was the comedy, which starts out a little slow and obvious, but settles into a really good groove once the characters are established into their plotlines. As the film wore on, the audience and I were laughing harder and more frequently and none of it relied on lazy toilet humor or the fat jokes all but certain to be found in Spy. Also, a shout out to Haley Joel Osment appearing as an adult and reminding us that he is more than just that kid who sees dead people. Of all the things I didn’t expect in this movie, that one was the biggest surprise.
If there was one weakness in this film, it’s the way in which it treats Vince’s movie. For all of the comedy and cameos, the film tries to take itself semi-seriously in terms of the characters and portrayal of the movie industry and does a very good job, except with the reception of Vince’s film (Hyde). We only see a quick snippet of Hyde (a Zack Snyder-esque action shot) and we are told that Drama has a role, though he only appears in four scenes. (SPOILER ALERT) Yet, at the tail-end our movie, Hyde is up for five Golden Globes, including best picture, and Drama wins best supporting actor. Given what we know, this seems counter to the rest of the film and feels very much over-the-top – essentially, tacked on for no logical reason. The only thing that felt right was hearing that Hyde was raking in money like a Marvel film and they easily could have just left it at that since the entire movie was centered on money.
Make no mistake – this movie is for guys. With the exception of a couple of wives and Rousey, the women are treated as set pieces – appearing either in bikinis, topless, or topless and having sex with E – to be ogled by the dudes who are this movie’s main audience (and don’t think I’m complaining, because those women are gorgeous – yes, I’m a dude). The closest thing to male nudity is a blurry-handed picture of Drama jerking off and Russell Wilson playing beach volleyball. They even manage to fit in some gay jokes while winking at you that it’s okay because Ari is going to give away his gay assistant at said assistant’s wedding. I don’t believe this was meant to be offensive, but was meant to reassure the bros in the audience of their manhood. For the record, I have no problem with gays or male nudity, but I think gay men would agree with me that nobody wants to see Kevin Dillon naked.
The bottom line is that this movie is a very, very good movie for both dedicated fans and Entourage-virgins like me. In fact, I liked the movie so much that now I’m forced to skip a couple of movies in order to watch Entourage the show. But at least you won’t gasp now when you asked if I’ve seen it.
Rating: Worth more than you paid for it if you are a dude, but women will probably want a buck or two back since they didn’t even get a decent ass-shot of Russell Wilson.