Miles from Being Good


FILM REVIEW |BY CHRISTIAN TESFAYE - EXCLUSIVE TO FORTUNE



It is not always that Mark Wahlberg is upstaged, but Iko Uwais succeeds in doing so in Mile 22. Unfortunately, poor writing, direction and choreography make the film unwatchable. Christian Tesfaye awards 3 out of 10 stars.


Few movies able to fuse together an interesting plot, good acting and clean martial arts choreography to create a repeatable film come to mind. But the Indonesian film The Raid was that sort of movie, and this was in part because of its Welsh director Gareth Evans, and in part because of the lead, Iko Uwais.

Uwais is an uncommon, hard to remember name outside Indonesia. Perhaps the actor would have been better off using more pronounceable names such as Jackie Chan or Jet Lee to make it easier for international audiences highly influenced by, lets face it, Anglosphere culture.

He is not any less a talented actor though. His calm and composed acting is relatable and his martial arts skills are more than impressive. His greatest performances are in The Raid and its sequel, where, with Yayan Ruhian, another Indonesian find, present us with some of the most thrilling, gory and slick fight scenes ever put on screen. The movies’ massive critical success, especially for a martial arts films, have garnered Uwais international acclaim and a spot in a Mark Wahlberg vehicle.

That is Mile 22, an action thriller that neither thrills nor is active. It is a movie that confuses mere car crashes, gun fights and martial arts for action. Neither does it have an original concept, complex characters, exciting action sequences or even a fully-fledged plot. It is similar to an episode of a TV series. The difference here is that this movie has the vanity to believe that we would wait in anticipation of the sequel for a year or so.

Wahlberg plays James, the talkative leader of a special strike team currently stationed in Indonesia to locate a toxic substance. They do not have much success until they meet Li (Uwais), a police officer that surrenders himself to the United States’ embassy, and proves that he knows where the chemicals are. He wants to exchange this information for a safe passage out of Indonesia and a ticket to the United States.

After an attempt on Li’s life at the embassy, James and his team learn that he is indeed a valuable asset. But they also realise that extraction will not be easy. They will have to transport him 22 miles away, hence the film’s title, to an airplane where he would divulge the rest of the information. But the journey, as James and Li find out, is wrought by the Indonesian authorities determined to stop them in their tracks.

The director of the film is Peter Berg, who lately seems not to get enough of Wahlberg. The last three movies he has directed, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor, all feature the movie star. Only Lone Survivor is worth the watch. A war movie based on a true story, it is as gritty as some of its scenes are cringe-worthy.

Berg has made movies without Wahlberg, who has not been as loyal. Some like Hancock have been ambitious even if they succumbed to solving conflicts through physical combat. Others, like Battleship, have been absolutely awful, garnering Berg a Gold Raspberry nomination for worst director of the year in 2012. He did not get to win, with the honour going to Bill Condon for his particularly unwatchable installation of the Twilight Saga.

Berg’s greatest sin in Mile 22 is how he succeeds at ruining the action sequences, especially the fight scenes. They are too fragmented as a result of too much cutting. We only first see individuals about to fight, some limbs thrown here and there, some screams and finally a foe unconscious on the ground.

There are none of the gory details, the sumptuous fight scenes, that Li was a part of in The Raid. Wahlberg, a good actor that has given us some impressive performances, may require stunt men to stand in for some scenes, necessiating the use of camera and editing work to hide the faces of stunt men through excessive camera movements and scene splicing may be part of the problem. But Li has more than proven his talents.

This was a missed opportunity for Uwais, who is just making his Hollywood debut. But there is a career in front of him, and with careful choice of scripts, he can be the next big Asian import to Hollywood.



By CHRISTIAN TESFAYE
Special to Fortune

Published on Sep 01,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 957]


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