Peter Berg’s “Mile 22” is high on action and low on most everything else. For the man behind visceral movies such as “Lone Survivor” and “Friday Night Lights,” that feels like a letdown.
Set in the urban chaos of a fictional city in southeast Asia, “Mile 22” follows a black ops team as it tries to evacuate a high-value CIA asset.
The asset is Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a local operative who claims to know the location of a lethal payload of a biological weapon called CZ-139. Fearing for his safety, he refuses to divulge the whereabouts until he’s escorted out of the country. That means a special black ops CIA paramilitary team called Overwatch is going to have to fight off video game levels of armed assassins over a 22-mile distance of hostile urban territory.
The Overwatch team leader is James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), a high-strung operative with enough psychological issues that a therapist long ago taught him to snap a rubber wristband when his anxiety kicks in. He snaps the wristband a lot. He also has violent tendencies, which comes in handy throughout the 95-minute film of almost constant mayhem and bloodshed.
Team member Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) is almost Silva’s equal in the violent behavior department, though hers is rooted more in pent-up rage from her recent divorce. Since she and her ex (played by Berg) are in a custody battle, Kerr is forced to use a special phone app called Family Wizard that shares all of their communication with their legal representatives.
Behind the scenes, Bishop (John Malkovich) calls the shots for a squad of computer people, and MMA star Ronda Rousey and Carlo Alban round out Silva and Kerr’s boots-on-the-ground team. But any thought of character or subplot is quickly dismissed in order to keep the focus on the action, which starts with a rousing battle between a handcuffed Noor and a pair of assassins posing as med techs.
Focus is good, but the same mechanical precision that informs Berg’s directorial style also bleeds through to the predictable story, which feels almost routine by the time a third-act twist offers a mild surprise.
What “Mile 22” does offer is a hard-R level of bloody action violence — drawn from a combination of explosions, constant gunfire and graphic hand-to-hand combat that, while well executed (no pun intended), will challenge the sensitivities of many audiences.
Sensitive or not, most audiences will be familiar with Wahlberg and “The Walking Dead’s” Cohan, but “Mile 22” is ultimately a showcase for Uwais, whose high-flying work injects the film with a valuable boost of energy.
“Mile 22” also earns its rating with ample R-rated profanity, which feels tedious coming from characters who are clearly trying to sound tougher than they are. “Mile 22” may not be dealing in your day-to-day heroes, but with a cast of mostly unlikable characters at the helm, audiences will have more time to question the film’s plot holes and other shortcomings.
“Mile 22” is a step down for Berg — heavy on style, but regrettably low on substance. If you’re looking for a violent action fix, “Mile 22” will certainly get the job done, but it will leave you feeling empty as the final credits roll.
“Mile 22” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout; running time: 95 minutes.