'Mile 22' loads up brutal action vehicle that misses the mark

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 8/16/2018, 1:16 p.m.
The basic plot for "Mile 22" is about as challenging as the average CBS drama pilot, which is less of ...
The basic plot for "Mile 22" is about as challenging as the average CBS drama pilot, which is less of a problem because it's also almost wholly irrelevant.

By Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) -- The basic plot for "Mile 22" is about as challenging as the average CBS drama pilot, which is less of a problem because it's also almost wholly irrelevant. The fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg is devoted to visceral, brutally violent action, which this 90-some-odd-minute movie delivers in droves, even if the title is at least 21 miles more than it's worth driving to see it.

As markers on the cinematic highway go, "Mile 22" falls somewhere between "Mission: Impossible" (the government even disavows any knowledge of what's happening) and those cheesy, low-budget action vehicles that fill the wee-morning hours on Cinemax.

Wahlberg, who doubles as the film's producer, plays Jimmy Silva, part of an elite paramilitary team operated under an umbrella known as Overwatch, which is introduced staging a raid on a Russian safe house that goes violently awry.

Cut to 16 months later, and Silva, his colleague and verbal sparring partner Alice ("The Walking Dead's" Lauren Cohan) and their crack squad are tasked with transporting a foreign intelligence asset -- who possesses vital information about a massive terrorist plot -- from the American Embassy to the nearest airfield. How near? About 22 miles.

Unfortunately, those miles must be traversed in a Southeast Asian country where the security forces have no compunctions about shooting up crowded streets as the agents run what amounts to a bloody gauntlet, guided from afar by their easily riled boss (John Malkovich, doing what little he can to class up the joint).

Fortunately, the "package" they're ferrying across that dangerous commute is played by Indonesian actor and martial-arts choreographer Iko Uwais (best known for "The Raid" movies), who turns out to be more than capable of protecting himself. In fact, Uwais' action sequences -- fast paced and electric -- are easily the highlight of a movie otherwise characterized by an abundance of automatic-weapons fire and tedious dialogue during the fleeting gaps between those bursts.

Not surprisingly, the performances tend to get lost amid the mayhem -- the point here is style, not substance -- although Wahlberg talks in such rapid-fire, staccato fashion, he appears to be auditioning for a "West Wing" reboot. Similarly, his banter with Cohan resembles "Moonlighting," only with F-bombs. And while Russian intelligence plays a prominent role in the plot, the movie is too much of a first-person shooter game to offer any real-world significance.

The operatives here (among them UFC fighter Ronda Rousey) are engaged in "dark work," we're told, tasked with the thankless job to "prevent the end of tomorrow." If diplomacy and the military are the government's first two options, Overwatch is described as "Option 3."

That's a pretty good line for a billboard, and a durable template for action thrillers. But except for those craving a late-summer shoot 'em up, "Option 4" would be to skip past "Mile 22" -- or maybe just wait until it makes the short trip to cable.

"Mile 22" premieres Aug. 17 in the U.S. It's rated R.