'Mile 22' Review: Action Movies Don't Get More Incoherent And Exhausting Than This

The good news about the new Peter Berg/Mark Wahlberg action movie Mile 22 is that it's moderately short, clocking in at barely over an hour and a half. The bad news is that Mile 22 still isn't short enough. Mile 22 goes in the same category as the recent Sicario: Day of the Soldado; it's an often repugnant and obnoxious exercise in faux-cinema verite style that serves to beat down its audience into submission as opposed to being entertaining. The compact nature of the story is fairly novel, but the way in which its ticking-clock premise is executed is both exhausting and inexplicable.The setup is grim and allows for the possibility of tension: a group of elite CIA agents, working within the shadow of a hush-hush paramilitary unit, have to transport a Southeast Asian cop (Iko Uwais) 22 miles to a transport plane so he can reveal state secrets. The corrupt officials who would rather be protected by those secrets try to kill the cop and the CIA agents during their 22-mile trek. In the right hands, this premise could make for a down and dirty action film, gritty and intense in the best ways. Uwais' presence – as well as the few fight sequences where he's the main attraction, including one set in an apartment building – calls to mind The Raid, which only serves as a reminder of an action film helmed by someone who knew what he was doing.Coming only a couple weeks after the superlative Mission: Impossible – Fallout also does no favors to Mile 22, which has some of the most herky-jerky, poorly edited and generally incomprehensible action sequences in recent memory. Even those sequences focusing on Uwais are often difficult to parse. Every time this movie could capture two guys fighting each other in one shot, it chooses to do so in at least ten shots badly stitched together. It's not that Mile 22 would be a great film if the action was coherent, but at least that would be something.Unlike in previous Berg/Wahlberg collaborations like Lone Survivor and Patriots' Day, Mile 22 isn't based on a true story, so Wahlberg is playing a truly fictional character, in every possible way. Here, he's Jimmy Silva, a hyper-intelligent CIA agent whose intense nature can both serve to alienate his peers and establish him as the smartest guy in the room. That is, at least, the way the script – credited to Lea Carpenter – treats Jimmy; both in writing and in the performance by Wahlberg, Jimmy is genuinely one of the most grating protagonists in recent memory. Plenty of modern heroes are dark and cynical, but Mile 22 treats Jimmy like a seer of the darker side of humanity. Wahlberg monologues a lot in this movie. A. Lot. Being fair, most of the characters – including Lauren Cohan and John Malkovich as Silva's cohorts – monologue in this film. But Wahlberg's are Dirk Diggler-esque in their misplaced confidence.It's particularly distressing to watch a film like Mile 22 not realize who its true lead character should be. Yes, Mark Wahlberg is the most recognizable actor in this film, but it's Uwais as the enigmatic cop who should be the lead. When the cop is first beset upon in the U.S. Embassy by two corrupt local heavies, it leads to what might be the only remotely successful fight scene in the film. Wahlberg is called upon largely to fire guns and talk at a similarly rapid-fire clip (because, you see, Jimmy is exceedingly smart and is unable to handle anyone who can't keep up with his quick thinking and Wikipedia-style recitation of random facts). Uwais at least gets to throw his body around in brutal ways that feel apt to a story like this.Perhaps the unkindest cut is the very real sense that Mile 22 ends in such a way as to create excitement for a sequel of some kind. The climax features an act of rug-pulling made even more shameless by the notion that the filmmakers are quite pleased with themselves, made worse by the abrupt ending that screams for an old-fashioned "To Be Continued?" card. Mile 22 could have been a halfway decent action film if it could focus on what is revealed to be its eventual premise. ("Eventual" because the entire idea of transporting someone 22 miles doesn't get introduced until maybe halfway through the 94-minute runtime.) Instead, it's an aggressive, arrogant, slapdash action film that believes it's profound./Film Rating: 2 out of 10