Bad movies aren’t uncommon. A lot of the time, they can even be fun. But it’s truly (and blessedly) rare to come across a movie as shoddily made, as contemptuous of its own story, and as utterly disinterested in being comprehensible as Mile 22. It is a loathsome, hateful thing without a single redeeming quality.
The “movie,” which is more accurately described as a haphazard assemblage of random sound and image, is ostensibly about a group of secret American spy people who do secret spy things with the help of guns and grenades and expensive surveillance technology. Mark Wahlberg is one of the group, The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan is another, and John Malkovich is their eye in the sky. It’s directed by Peter Berg with what seems to be outright malice toward the audience.
It’s also the fourth of Berg's collaborations with Wahlberg, and some have suggested it continues the duo’s tradition of dick-wagging, flag-waving, pro-American tales of heroism (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day). Maybe it does, but I found Mile 22 so completely incoherent that I can’t really say it contains an outlook or philosophy of any kind.
Wahlberg, Cohan, and their team are assigned to smuggle an “asset” (played by The Raid: Redemption’s Iko Uwais) out of the fictitious Indocarr City. This asset knows how to disarm some bombs that are about to explode, so it’s basically a rampage across a hostile cityscape of brown people as the team gets to a runway where a plane’s waiting. Bullets fly, things explode, and everything is edited within an inch of its life, with blurry surveillance footage and regular bad cinematography blended into nauseating visual chum.
The camera operators seem to have forgotten to point their cameras at the actors, and editing has all the rhythm of a hiccupping flea who’s just taken a fat hit of angel dust. One might theorize that Berg is taking his inspiration from the work of Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay, but the overriding suspicion is that he has never seen a movie of any kind nor witnessed a human interaction.
So we get grisly, unintelligible violence and Wahlberg saying “fuck” a lot. His character insults his coworkers with unfunny smart-aleck remarks, which makes him one of the most abhorrent protagonists I've ever seen in a movie.
A narrative device intercuts Mile 22's slight story with Wahlberg's commentary/testimony at a legal hearing, but the bullshit that falls out of his mouth is a marshmallow-brained simpleton’s idea of what a tough guy sounds like. Most of the time, the sound design is so bad that you can’t understand what the characters are saying. This may be a small mercy.
Uwais has some pretty sweet martial-arts moves, but it’s almost as if Berg went out of his way to not put them in the movie; whatever makes it on-screen seems to be there as if by accident. The rest of Mile 22 is just plain atrocious.
It’s actually impressive that all the people who made it—at least some of whom, one assumes, have made other movies, or at least have vague ideas of how movies work—have done their jobs this poorly. I say this as a lover of action films and as someone with a soft spot for the type of goofy espionage bullshit this movie is modeled after: Mile 22 is vile, despicable, and entirely unacceptable.