Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Spenser Confidential

Spenser Confidential is loosely based on Robert B. Parker's novels about a smart-ass Boston private investigator. And when I say loosely, I mean screenwriters Sean O'Keefe and Brian Helgeland may have glanced at the spine of one of the dozens of Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker over the decades. The film re-imagines Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) as a recently-paroled cop who spent five years in prison after beating up his superior officer (Michael Gaston) on his front lawn after the police captain buried evidence on the brutal murder of a protester (Avery Grant).

With dreams of being a truck driver, Spenser is pulled back into the muck when the police captain and another officer are murdered on the day Spenser is released from prison. Although only a suspect for about five seconds, Spenser decides to look into the situation on his own. Hawk (Winston Duke) is re-imagined as a young kickboxer rather than the world-class hitman with a shared boxing past with Spenser. Alan Arkin co-stars as gym owner Henry Cimoli who, along with training Hawk and giving Spenser a place to stay, helps Spenser and Hawk on the case.

Lowlights include Spenser banging his aggressively unpleasant ex (Iliza Shlesinger) in a restaurant bathroom and an extended tussle with a guard dog. Every cop in the film is either dirty, oblivious, or incompetent including a pair of FBI agents (Ayana Brown and Dustin Tucker) who refuse to action on evidence Spenser delivers on a silver platter to make their case. Eventually Spenser and Hawk take down the entire shady business involving dirty cops, the mob, and a new casino, providing enough evidence that the authorities are forced into doing their jobs while breaking dozens of laws for which they are never held accountable. Even for those with no experience with Parker's original work, Spenser Confidential is a dumpster fire. For fans of the character, it's even worse.

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