Spenser Confidential Shows A New Boston

Winston Duke and Mark Wahlberg in Spenser Confidential. Courtesy of Netflix.

Spenser Confidential puts the city of Boston front and center while taking its inspiration from Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland.

There’s something in seeing a Mark Wahlberg action film debut not in cinemas but on Netflix.  It’s just a little bit weird to be watching a Wahlberg film for the first time on TV during opening weekend.  But hey, this is the world we’re currently living in so we may as well start getting used to it.  That is if you’re not used to it already.  Not to make light of the current situation, films debuting on Netflix are likely to benefit from people choosing to stay home.  You do you.

After the cold open gives us the backstory, the film takes a five year jump.  Ex-cop Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) is on his way out of prison though it’s not without–what do you expect–a fight.  Both prisoners and members of the force want him out of Boston.  There’s just one problem before he can leave town.  His mentor, Henry Cimoli (Alan Arkin), wants Spenser to help out with a promising MMA fighter, Hawk (Winston Duke).  Henry is a boxing coach and anyway, Hawk is the type that thinks he’ll turn out way better than Spencer ever did.  Putting Hawk’s ego aside for a moment, he gets caught up in Spenser’s business after a few cops end up dead.  Spenser’s girlfriend, Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger), is also roped into the investigation.

Spenser Confidential manages to tell a different kind of Boston story.  While some things certainly don’t change, we’re able to see present-day Boston on screen.  This is certainly good in terms of Boston movies.  Meanwhile, Wahlberg is able to show off his comedic side.  We’ve known about this side for quite some time.  It’s great that filmmakers are letting him show it off.  Peter Berg isn’t a director that we naturally think of when it comes to comedy movies let alone an action-comedy.  The only action-comedy on his resume is 2008’s Hancock.

The return to the genre for Berg also shows through the film’s casting.  The cast includes comedians such as Iliza Shlesinger and Marc Maron.  Alan Arkin is no stranger to comedy having been in the cast for some of The Second City’s earliest revues.

While Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is the focus of an online meme, it’s also the background music for some action.  Wahlberg’s Spenser gets pretty banged up in this film but that just goes without saying.  The soundtrack as a whole is one that music lovers should appreciate.

Could another studio make this film?  Maybe.  It’s honestly hard to say in the current film environment.  But like I said earlier, it’s just strange seeing a Mark Wahlberg film debut exclusively on Netflix.

Spenser Confidential somehow finds a way to bridge the gap between Boston mobster movies with the buddy-cop action-comedy genre.  Only in this case, the two at the center are ex-prisoners and one of them just happens to be an ex-cop.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg
SCREENWRITER:  Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland
CAST:  Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Michael Gaston, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, James Dumont, Austin Post, and Colleen Camp

Netflix launches Spenser Confidential on March 6, 2020. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.