Peter Berg has amassed quite the career. As an actor, he encompassed an impressive résumé with roles in “Very Bad Things” (which he also directed), “A Midnight Clear,” TV’s “Chicago Hope,” “Fire in the Sky,” James Mangold’s “Cop Land” and Michael Mann’s Tom Cruise-led “Collateral.” Berg also helmed one of the dumbest, yet a fun guilty pleasure, films “Battleship,” which is based on the board game.
His new action-drama “Mile 22” finds Berg re-teaming with Mark Wahlberg for the fourth time. He worked with Wahlberg most recently in “Lone Survivor,” a 2013 tale about the last man standing in an overseas operation. More recent pairings were in the true-life oil spill flick “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriots Day,” about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“Mile 22” has a great cast with Lauren Cohan (TV’s “The Walking Dead”), Oscar nominee John Malkovich, (“In the Line of Fire,” 1993), Ronda Rousey (“The Expendables 3”) and Iko Uwais. Berg knows his prowess and it shows in his handling of the scenes where Li Noor (Uwais) takes on some nurses at the local hospital. It is significant because that is not where they take Li, a prisoner and former cop they want for safe keeping. Li also has some intel on an ongoing situation.
Berg knows how to handle the camera in the action sequences, which in many scenes are a tight fit just like his fine work in 2003’s “The Rundown.” In that one, Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, did a great job in the role and did not make his part a caricature. His bounty hunter persona wanted to open a restaurant and get out of the bounty hunting lifestyle. Berg knows just when and where to point and shoot.
“Mile 22” is gritty as all get out, since the movie does not follow normal traditions and parameters in storytelling technique. It is non-stop action from the opening scene. The pacing is brisk and only slows down for brief spells to do some minor character development.
Wahlberg, like The Rock before him, proved he could single handedly carry a movie. For him, it was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” the tale of a young dishwasher, Eddie Adams, who eventually becomes porn sensation Dirk Diggler. It is one of Anderson’s earlier works, from 1997.
A lot of the viewing public was at “Mile 22” to see Wahlberg. For me though, it was seeing the often underrated Uwais who, like other martial arts maestros Donne Yen, Jet Li or even Jackie Chan, has a very selective and discreet audience.
What was also of interest was the close knit operations that endured. No one involved carries identification. The team, for all intents and purposes, is a bunch of ghosts.
Not to ruin anything, but this one falls into the category of “The Usual Suspects” and David Fincher’s “The Game” as pretzel-twisting thriller camp.
As aforementioned, the pacing on this well-told tale is simply relentless. Berg always makes the viewers keep their eyes fixed on the screen.