Lainey calls Mark Wahlberg the “Hollywood enforcer” because he’s always playing super-jacked heroes and talking a big game about how he would have single-handedly stopped 9/11 if only he’d been on a plane that day. Well, the latest in Wahlberg’s Patriotic Hero series is Patriots Day, a movie about the Boston Marathon bombing which reunites him with his Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon director, Peter Berg. Given that it’s a hero’s biopic about an American disaster directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, Patriots Day looks exactly like you expect it to.
Admittedly, I liked Deepwater Horizon, but that movie very much benefits from the relative obscurity of its story. The Boston Marathon bombing, however, was covered fanatically by the press and social media—I remember seeing photos within minutes of the explosions spreading across Twitter and Facebook—which puts it in Sully territory, of being inherently boring because we know the story and imagery so well already. It’s not that there aren’t stories about that day worth telling, it’s just that, to get around the familiarity of the subject, you’re going to have to find a fresh perspective.
But Berg and Wahlberg don’t do fresh perspective, they’re soft-balling these Patriotic Hero movies straight down the middle, in the most conventional way possible. Let’s just say, I have higher hopes for the Jake Gyllenhaal Boston Marathon movie, Stronger, because it’s directed by David Gordon Green, who is a more inventive director who takes a humanist approach to drama. Also, Gyllenhaal is playing Jeff Bauman, who was maimed in the bombing. There is no way Mark Wahlberg would ever play someone so vulnerable. He only plays virile masculine heroes who don’t hesitate.
Like Ben Affleck’s new movie, Patriots Day is getting a late December release, cramming it in just time for Oscar consideration. That’s absurdly optimistic—even in a weak year I give Patriots Day, and/or Deepwater Horizon, consideration in only the sound categories. Best Actor is going to come down to Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington, with Michael Keaton stalking from the outside, and the Patriotic Hero movies are going to get shone down by Ang Lee’s techno-marvel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which is more Hurt Locker than Lone Survivor. If Marky Mark is hoping one of these movies will earn him trophies, he’s going to have to try a different approach.
Attached - Mark Wahlberg promoting Deepwater Horizon in Rome earlier this week.