Mark Wahlberg Might Be Retiring Soon After Shifting Towards 'More Meaningful Content'

Mark Wahlberg is out promoting a new biopic, "Father Stu," in which he plays a boxer-turned-priest, and the 50-year-old actor and star of "The Fighter" seems to be taking a cue from his character as he talks up a possible career shift and his own impending retirement.

"Father Stu" co-stars Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver ("Animal Kingdom") and Mel Gibson, the latter of whom once made his own controversial foray into faith-based filmmaking with "The Passion of the Christ." Like Gibson, Wahlberg identifies as Catholic, and while speaking to Entertainment Tonight (via IndieWire), he pointed to "Father Stu" as a crossroads in his filmography. He talked about leaving the limelight "sooner rather than later" and said:

"I feel like this is starting a new chapter for me in that, now, doing things like this [with] real substance can help people. I definitely want to focus on making more. I wouldn't say necessarily just faith-based content but things that will help people. Hopefully this movie will open a door for not only myself but for lots of other people in Hollywood to make more meaningful content."

When he refers to "meaningful content" and things of "real substance" helping people, Wahlberg seems to be talking about films with a spiritual bent like "Father Stu" and inspirational movies in general, as opposed to the bloody Bayhem of "Pain and Gain" or escapist spectacles like the two "Transformers" movies in which he's appeared (also directed by Michael Bay). We haven't done much coverage of "Father Stu," but below, you can see the trailer, which speaks for itself as to what kind of movie it is.

'God wanted a fighter and He found one'

As you can see from the trailer, "Father Stu" sees Wahlberg adopting a somewhat dodgy accent as he plays a character who goes from being a boxer to a butcher/barroom brawler/aspiring actor with a DUI, and finally, a priest, all in the span of three minutes. Somewhere in there, there's also his courtship of a Catholic woman, played by Teresa Ruiz, which precipitates his decision to get baptized. It's a lot to take in, but the film is based on the real-life story of Father Stuart Long, who underwent a conversion to Catholicism after a near-death experience, only to later be afflicted with a "progressive muscle disorder," as the trailer calls it, known as inclusion body myositis.

The tagline for "Father Stu" is, "God wanted a fighter and He found one." Sony Pictures is opening the film exclusively in theaters just before Easter, on April 13, 2022. The presence of Gibson, the use of Johnny Cash's music, and lines like, "You don't belong with those L.A. folks. They're a bunch of fascist hippies," all speak to a movie that is catering to a very specific target audience.

In the past, I've written about some of the issues hampering faith-based movies and have also done a deep dive into "The Passion of the Christ" here on /Film. As a onetime pre-seminarian, I'm not opposed to religious films in principle, but based on the trailer, "Father Stu" doesn't necessarily look like one that's going to break the mold.

Wahlberg's best movies — "Boogie Nights," "The Departed," and "The Fighter" — have all managed to be meaningful without being didactic, though obviously those were secular films. For some moviegoers, seeing Wahlberg smile for a mugshot, minister to prison inmates, and kneel in tearful prayer might be a hard sell, given his teen history of racially motivated assaults, which resurfaced in 2020 alongside Gibson's own troubled history. Yes, there were drugs and alcohol involved, and no one needs an armchair critic to cast stones or play moral arbiter, but the internet never forgets.

In the "Father Stu" trailer, Wahlberg's character says, "We've all been wronged. And we've done some wrong." Wanting to turn over a new leaf is an admirable aim, but whether Wahlberg's shift to faith-based content can provide meaningful inspiration beyond preaching to the choir remains to be seen.