“Mile 22” is a movie every bit as toxically moronic, tone-deaf and self-flagellating as a daily schedule which starts the day at 2:30am for literally no good reason. It’s a hateful, ignorant and needlessly, excessively profane geopolitical cartoon scrawled in crayon on the bathroom stall of cinema; a Neanderthal cave painting, rendered in excrement.
When an apparently low-ranking Police Officer surrenders himself to the American Embassy in Indonesia, it’s up to James Silva (Wahlberg) and his top-secret tactical special ops team to assess his case. He claims to have information on the location of rogue shipments of caesium which could be used to make irradiated dirty bombs but will only surrender the information once he has been successfully smuggled out of the country. All they need to do is get him to the airstrip 22 miles away and the only thing between them and their destination is all the force the Indonesian government can muster.
Taking a break from meticulously recreating real-life drama, director Peter Berg reunites with star and producer Mark Wahlberg for this hateful and obnoxiously incoherent cacophonous mess of a movie which has absolutely nothing of interest to say but insists on hollering it as loudly and profanely as possible. It’s a dirty protest of a movie, an arch fetishization of the idea of extra-judicial militarised unilateralism that fuels the very worst excesses of America’s hawkish paper tiger instincts.
“Team America” without the nuance, irony or self-awareness, it starts badly early on by essaying Wahlberg’s character as some kind of child genius who can’t control his temper and violent outbursts (without low-key corporal mortification) because he’s too intelligent. Of course, it’s a super idea to build a team of dysfunctional people with breath-taking impulse and anger management issues and a decidedly sociopathic outlook, led by a barbed-wire snowflake of a man and give them access to unlimited weaponry with no oversight or accountability. After all, these are the people you turn to when option one, diplomacy and option 2, the military have failed. You know, option 3…er…more…military? Oh, and despite the film’s repeated protestations to the contrary, they clearly do have oversight and accountability because the film is told framed in flashback as Wahlberg’s psychotic savant is deposed by two faceless bureaucrats.
Wahlberg manages to convey the aggressive sociopathy and violent temper of his character just fine but the alleged keen intelligence is much more subtly rendered and may escape your notice completely. The rest of the cast, meanwhile, pay the price for a script which continually tells us of his tactical acumen but comprehensively fails to show us any of it as they’re rapidly and repeatedly outgunned, out-thought and out-manoeuvred. At least it mercifully offs Ronda Rousey’s ‘character’ before the role requires any actual acting.
Iko Uwais (“The Raid 2”) is as impressive as ever as the clearly-anything-but-a-run-of-the-mill Indonesian-flatfoot but is never allowed to even come close to overshadowing star/ producer Mark Wahlberg’s puffed-up, posturing allegedly brainy bully and the only other actor who delivers something close to an intriguing and engaging performance is “The Walking Dead” alum Lauren Cohan, despite the expletive-laden, sexist claptrap she’s forced to spit out. Berg never seems entirely comfortable with the fast-paced and frenetic action, cutting it to near oblivion, obscuring the bone-crunchingly balletic combat skills of Uwais and taking an already repellent film and making it truly ugly.
Had the writer/ director/ producer of this dirty bomb of a movie had the sense to focus it on Uwais and Lauren Cohan’s Alice Kerr character, it could maybe have risen above its noxious base impulses and delivered something interesting and worthwhile. As it is, it’s a vile, pig-headedly poisonous miasma of corrupted patriotism, ‘roided-out masculinity and a morally bankrupt might-makes-right mentality; a battle hymn for the Republic of Dumbfuckistan, USA.