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Review: Wahlberg goes full Boston in lugheaded 'Spenser Confidential'

Wahlberg stars as Boston detective in Netflix movie, based on popular series of detective novels

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Mark Wahlberg delivers justice, Boston-style, as an ex-con who goes around punching people and solving crimes in "Spenser Confidential," a dumb-as-rocks detective story that feels like it was sketched out on a used napkin from Dunkin' Donuts.  

Wahlberg plays Spenser, an ex-cop who went to the slammah for bludgeoning his old boss, a crooked police captain (Michael Gaston) who, don't worry, deserved his beating. 

Winston Duke (left) and Mark Wahlberg (right) star in "Spenser Confidential."

The day Spenser gets out of jail for his five-year-stint his former boss turns up dead, along with a by-the-books cop that was onto the captain. 

Spenser, who is enrolled in trucking school and on his way to sunnier pastures in Arizona, is the only one who can solve the crime, which involves crooked cops, drug money and Boston baddies who are as proud of their machetes as they are Fenway Park and the Green Monstah.

Director Peter Berg, in his fifth collaboration with Wahlberg, bases the story on the series of detective novels by Robert B. Parker and populates his world with colorful side characters, including Iliza Shlesinger as Spenser's brash ex-wife, Alan Arkin as his fiery father and "Black Panther's" Winston Duke as his unwitting roommate. 

But the detective story is so dunderheaded that it hangs on a single clue — a toothpick! — while going out of its way to shore up its Boston credentials (there's a bathroom brawl set to "Sweet Caroline," bah bah bah). 

As a pilot episode for a rebooted "Spenser: For Hire," "Spenser Confidential" is just corny enough to work. But as a standalone story, it's about as welcome as a curse from the Great Bambino.  

'Spenser Confidential'


Rated R: for violence, language throughout and sexual content

Running time: 111 minutes

On Netflix