Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever longed for the easygoing action movies from the 1970s like Smokey and the Bandit and Every Which Way But Loose, you may want to check out the new Netflix movie Spenser Confidential Like those films it has the big screen leading actor in Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Shooter, Ted), playing the familiar Robert P. Parker character Spenser, the amiable co-star with Winston Duke (Black Panther, Us) as partner Hawk, the mouthy lead actress in Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Forever 31) as Spenser’s ex Cissy, the snarky elder voice in Alan Arkin (Argo, Gattaca, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Sesame Street) as Spenser and Hawk’s mentor, and even the cute animal friend presence via a friendly hound dog (that’s Pearl).  And a cool ride (here, a primo 1984 Buick Riviera).

Just like with the big screen movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (reviewed here at borg), viewers should forget about what they’ve read in the novels or experienced in the 1980s TV series starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks.  This is a trademark Mark Wahlberg movie, and he’s in familiar territory–Boston–and Wahlberg’s own real-life stint in jail brings a certain authenticity to his performance as a tough guy with a big mouth who can hold is own against much bigger thugs, emerging from the slammer.  Wahlberg’s character has bits of the roles he’s taken on in The Departed (cop), Shooter (strategist), The Italian Job (planner), The Perfect Storm (driven), 2 Guns (drugs), The Other Guys (buddy cop), even Ted (Bostonian), and the film comes from director Peter Berg, who audiences have seen team up with Wahlberg before in Mile 22, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg’s ex-cop is a good guy who must act when he sees someone in trouble, which in turn gets him into trouble.  The story in Spenser Confidential is neither complex not action-packed.  But Arkin and Shlesinger add some humor to what is very much an extended episode of early 1980s prime time television.  It has the same quality that makes us keeping coming back for more in the reboot Magnum PI series and the new Stumptown series–actors we like, characters we like, and an easy mystery to solve.

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