I admit that I can be a bit of a hypocrite sometimes. One of my biggest annoyances with a vast majority of the general movie going audience is that they want to see a movie because of “all the stars that are in it.” I’m a big fan of some actors as much as the next guy, but just because it has a good actor, doesn’t mean it has a good director, screenwriter, or anything else essential to making a good film. Well, sometimes I can’t help but take the bait and when the film ends up terrible, I really have nobody to blame but myself at that point.

Mile 22 follows the Overwatch team, a clandestine team of special combat operatives who do work for the United States government. The team is headed by the mentally unstable James Silva aka Child 1 (Mark Wahlberg) and James Bishop aka Mother (John Malkovich). Their current mission is to extract ex-Indoensian special forces member Li Noor (Iko Uwais), who has valuable information that could prevent a nuclear war. They must drive 22 miles to their destination and everything is going fine, until they find themselves attacked and fighting for their lives the whole way there.

Like I said, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I don’t really care for Mark Wahlberg or any of the other actors here. Peter Berg is a pretty hit and miss director. However, I am a massive fan of Iko Uwais, the star of the modern martial art masterpieces Raid films. I knew absolutely nothing about this film and didn’t care, but once I saw he was involved, I couldn’t wait to check it out just to see him. I was still weary, though. It could have been a case of him being in it for just five minutes with one brief fight scene, but he was actually a principal character! He’s honestly the best actor in the film, mostly because they play to his silent strengths and give him very little dialogue. When he gets to fight, it’s glorious, brutal, creative, and bloody.  As awesome as Uwais’ fighting is, these scenes are unfortunately neutered by the obscene use of shaky cam and frantic editing. These issues don’t just ruin his fight scenes, but the entire film. After the decent opening action scene, I knew I was in for some trouble when even standard dialogue scenes were shaking and cutting all over the place.  

When a film makes me groan, it’s usually from the dialogue and acting. When you’re editing is constantly irritating me, then you’re really doing a terrible job. I never knew what was happening, who was shooting who, what was hitting what. It was just a jumbled mess of grey shots thrown together on an editing timeline. It’s all so extreme and in your face, all punctuated by Mark Wahlberg’s insufferable character. His entire personality is that he’s “mentally unstable”, which seems like an excuse for him to just act like the biggest asshole in the world. He’s constantly yelling at people, helping them out, then ridiculing them for it, always acting like a tough guy and getting in people’s faces. He is absolutely one of the worst protagonists I’ve ever seen in a movie ever. The most hilarious part? They actually want this to be a franchise with him as the lead. Good luck with that.

Fortunately, none of the other characters are as irritating as Wahlberg, but the attempts to imbue them with any sort of personality or depth are eye rolling at best. It’s miscasting all around, especially Rhonda Rousey, who is probably the worst actress ever. She says every line like she’s just learning to read them, and when she doesn’t do any martial arts, what’s the point of casting her, really? The attempts at drama are totally laughable, especially when a lot of that drama comes from Mark Wahlberg’s incessant shouting and finger pointing. Since the characters all suck, it makes the incredibly simple premise just wear more and more thin as it drags on, because there’s nothing to care about. The last act is especially absurd, with silly plot twists and hackneyed modern social commentary that make it come off as it was written by a 15 year old.

If there’s one thing we don’t get often anymore, it’s gritty, down and dirty, bloody action films. For the most part, action films have become quite sterilized and are less exciting as a result. However, blood and grit can only do so much if you’re movie isn’t good and Mile 22 is the supreme definition of just not good. In really any way, shape, or form. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such an ineptly made wide release, but even Iko Uwais’ martial arts prowess can’t prevent incoherent direction and editing, awful dialogue, and a completely nonsensical plot. For a brisk 90-minute fare, it’s an endurance test and in the worst way possible.


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