Back in the 1980s, there was a TV program on ABC called Spenser for Hire and starred Robert Urich and Avery Brooks. I never loved this series, but I watched it a few times. So you can forgive me that I did not figure out that the new film on Netflix, Spenser Confidential is a return to that character, this time starring Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke.
Based on the novel “Wonderland” by Robert B Parker and directed by Peter Berg, Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) was a cop convicted of assaulting his police chief. After serving his time, Spenser returned to his life with the intent of leaving his home in Boston and heading out west to drive truck. However, a group of crooked cops and drug runners throw problems in his path. Spenser has to team up with Hawk (Winston Duke), a MMA fighter who was living with Spenser’s mentor, Henry (Alan Arkin), to try to solve the murders of a couple of Spenser’s previous colleagues.
I had some problems with this movie. First and foremost, it felt as if the film did not know what kind of film it wanted to be. At first it felt flashy and dumb, like a Michael Bay movie. Then it seemed like it wanted to be a buddy cop movie. Then, it tried to be a slapstick comedy. Then there was serious drama with the crime story. All of these different styles did not fit together in this case and really clashed. By trying to be it all, this movie was never able to be itself. It failed in all of the different tones.
Wahlberg and Duke were fine. Duke will always be M’Baku from Marvel’s Black Panther, and, unfortunately, this version of Hawk was nothing like the Avery Brooks version. I understand the attempt to take the character in a different direction, but this was a real tangent. Arkin was the same basic character that Arkin is in every movie these days. There is a character named Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger), Spenser’s former girlfriend, but the less mentioned about her the better. This character is easily the most annoying and least engaging character on the screen.
And Marc Maron is here too, but he is wasted. His character is so disposable that I am not even sure what his role here was.
The story is totally messy. It was convoluted and confusing. It wanted to be a mystery as well, but that played like every low-level buddy cop film you’ve ever seen. The bad guys are woefully underdeveloped and are basically one-dimensional crooks from your typical crime movie. Nothing special about any of them. They kept referring to Boylan (Michael Gaston), the police chief Spenser assaulted, but we knew so little about him that their use of him felt like lazy writing.
The comedy in the movie was just such a flop. There is one scene with Spenser and a dog that is as dumb as it can be. I am not sure I can recall any of the humor actually hitting.
This was just a bad movie and a failed attempt to bring the character of Spenser back to relevance. Wahlberg and Duke worked okay together and would be the best part of this movie. They are absolutely not enough to save this silly reboot. I do not think fans of the Spenser for Hire series or the Robert B. Parker novels featuring the character of Spenser will enjoy this movie much.