An elite American intelligence officer (Mark Wahlberg), aided by a top-secret tactical command unit (John Malkovich, Ronda Rousey and Lauren Cohan), attempt to smuggle a mysterious police officer (Iko Uwais) with sensitive information out of Indonesia.

 

Peter Berg's made a career out of aping the likes of Michael Mann and Tony Scott, taking fast-paced action choreography and editing and infusing it with real-life settings. It's largely worked for him, as offerings such as 'Deepwater Horizon' and 'Lone Survivor' are all strong examples of this mixture and Berg's influences. With 'Mile 22', the concept is fictional but the director leans heavily on his credentials to give it an air of realism. The result is sheer and utter chaos. The movie opens with a ridiculous monologue about the "new wars" and introduces us to Mark Wahlberg's genius-level intelligence officer with a personality problem and a penchant for violence and rambling off lines of books when he's angry. He also snaps an elastic band to help him think.

The direction and editing is done almost like it's in the middle of a seizure; focus comes and goes almost mid-dialogue and there's barely a chance to let a scene sit with itself before it's on to the next thing. In the middle of a tense conversation between a US ambassador and angry Indonesian bureaucrats, there's a pointless conversation about divorce proceedings that runs right through the middle of it. That kind of erratic editing might cover some action sequences, but you'd hardly expect it in the middle of some boring exposition. When the action kicks off, it's even worse.

Very often, fast cuts and excessive camera movements are usually deployed to hide stunt doubles or to give a sequence a sense of velocity which doesn't naturally occur to the action. A chase sequence, for example, is merely driving from A to B - but you bring in quick cuts, music and so on and then it comes alive. 'Mile 22' has Iko Uwais, who's one of the finest martial arts actors working today, and Berg's editing and direction utterly fails to capitalise on this. There's a sequence that echoes Viggo Mortensen's naked fight in 'Eastern Promises', but here it's done with such a lack of skill and finesse that you're barely unsure of what's happened. The gun battles - of which there are plenty - are absolutely incomprehensible and lack any kind of geography. There's more than a few scenes where you'll have no idea what's happening and who's shooting at who, and while that may sometimes be a creative decision, it doesn't feel like it was deliberate here.

The performances, right down the cast list, are laughably one-dimensional. Mark Wahlberg's blabbermouth secret agent is unlikable from the first line of dialogue, Ronda Rousey has nothing to do beyond look angry and frown reflexively, Lauren Cohan meanwhile has to carry what little emotional heft there in the story but is let down by a weak script. John Malkovich's hairpiece, meanwhile, was more convincing than John Malkovich himself. Iko Uwais is the only one who walks away unscathed here, but that's not saying much as he's essentially just a stunt player with some dialogue wrapped around him.

Everything about 'Mile 22' represents what terrible modern action cinema looks like. The dialogue is cookie-cutter military speak, the monologues from Wahlberg are ridiculous and border on militant fascism, the story itself is so threadbare as to be nothing, and the editing and direction renders all of this tripe utterly unwatchable.