If, in 1991, a person from the future visited Earth and told the movie-loving world, “Mark Wahlberg will become a decent actor in some really good films,” the sound of the population’s collective laughter would have disintegrated a warehouse full of remaindered Marky Mark Workout VHS tapes.
That was his hill to climb. When you become famous via house music, weightlifting and underwear modeling, you have two choices. You can level out, get comfortable and hope to coast on that for as far as it’ll take you. Or you can try harder. And that’s what Wahlberg did. With a handful of exceptions, his track record is pretty solid: Boogie Nights, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter, The Other Guys. Even cookie-cutter inspirational sports movies like Invincible weren’t embarrassing.
Thing is, though, when he makes a wrong turn, it’s really the wrong turn. It’s The Happening. It’s Four Brothers. It’s Max Payne. And from this we can learn that while cinema enjoys Films Starring Mark Wahlberg most of the time, occasionally we get stuck with a Marky Mark Movie. And here’s another one.
Based on the film Reykjavik-Rotterdam, which starred Icelandic actor/filmmaker Baltasar Kormakurr (who directs this English-language version), it’s about a master criminal gone legit who’s then forced back into the game to pay a debt his wife’s younger brother incurred over a drug smuggling operation gone wrong. Lucky for Wahlberg’s character, then, that he’s essentially Superman and can outwit, outrun, outshoot and outmuscle everybody around him, including the bad guy (a weasel-ish Giovanni Ribisi, duh) and even the secret bad guy (no spoilers, just check the cast list and then feel all smart when you figure it out in one second).
There are no surprises. There is no excitement. The action isn’t cool. The violence doesn’t gut-punch you. The caper isn’t interesting. This genre lives and dies by that stuff and even Wahlberg, who’s capable of taking silliness and elevating it into stone-faced pleasure (see Shooter for that), relies on the thuggish Massachusetts reflexes he can perform in his sleep, the kind Andy Samberg would happily impersonate for way less money and more enjoyment for all. Even the title is boring. It might as well be called Smugglin’ or PayLoad or CrimeThud.
But maybe that’s what you want in January when Oscar movies keep trying to broccoli you to death and you just crave everything you already know about lazily created action product. You want some pizza, the frozen kind you get in a high school cafeteria or roller-skating rink. You recognize it, you know that those little tiny cubes on it are supposed to be pepperoni, you eat it, you don’t enjoy it much, but you say to yourself, “Well, I like pizza. At least this is pizza.” And maybe that means the Marky Mark Movie serves a purpose after all.
By Dave White