When he’s not hanging with Autobots and Decepticons in Transformers, Mark Wahlberg is making a pretty varied career as an actor. Not everything hits the (Marky) mark but he’s balancing some interesting material with blockbuster fare. His true-life to screen films with Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) have been worth seeing for a variety of reasons and the latest Wahlberg-Berg joint, Patriots Day is also worthy of your time.
Based on the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Patriots Day follows the police investigation attempting to bring the bombers to justice. Wahlberg plays the Tommy Saunders, a Sergeant on the scene who is on the front line as the police race to capture the two brothers responsible for the crime.
Berg surrounds Walhlberg with a cast of pros and Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and J.K. Simmons all help to prop-up supporting roles. They do noble work playing real-life crimefighters but sadly the movie’s star is a fictional creation who has nothing to do other than navigate the audience through the real-life heroics of the Boston PD.
Patriots Day’s stand-out moment is the Watertown shoot-out, where the cops corner the bombers in a residential area – and everything about it is simply superb. This is a tense, Michael Mann-ish sequence, grounded in reality with a lot of gutsy moments. Devoid of CGI, this bravura sequence is as good as anything you’ll see all year. It’s the highlight of the movie and the reality with the film’s ending just can’t beat-it.
Everything about Berg’s film is well intentioned, but there’s something a little off. Maybe it’s just too noble and Berg is trying to handle the still-fresh events with kid-gloves. It could also be that he should have just ditched the Wahlberg character all together and expanded the ensemble vibe of the film. Sure, he might have had to shave a few million off the budget, but the film would have had a more authentic feel. But you can’t argue with the fact that the former Boston bad boy brought a lot of passion to the piece and this might be his best performance to date.
Patriots Day revels in its nobility and it’s an incredibly well made film. The acting’s good and the Watertown shootout is one for the books, but overall the film lacks the je ne sais quoi to make it great.
The Patriots Day Blu-ray comes stacked with material that looks at the real events and the people caught up in it. You also get a piece that compares the supporting cast to their real-life counterparts – and it’s odd that the film’s star is nowhere to be seen due to the fictionalisation of his character. This is as detailed as it gets – well done to the folks who put this stuff together.