7 Lessons I Learned While Watching Spenser Confidential
Max Ingleby rolls out his list of lessons you can learn from Mark Wahlberg’s new film.
Netflix’s Spenser Confidential has got everything a man could want – corruption, Boston, cops, corrupt Boston cops, drugs, Mark Wahlberg, the Mob, Irish pubs – and that’s just what it nicked from The Departed. There’s MMA fighting, trucks, an actual real-life MMA fighter, Sweet Caroline, and, uh, an incredibly uncomfortable sex scene set in the bathroom of an organic café (for the love of God don’t watch this with your parents). Also, face-tattooed global megastar POST MALONE is in it. I repeat, POST MALONE is in this film. Anyway, I’m here to answer the burning question that’s on everybody’s lips: “What can Spenser Confidential (Netflix, 2020, starring Mark Wahlberg) teach me about the subtle art of cinema?”. Well, I’m so glad you asked.
LESSON #1: SHOW OFF POST MALONE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO BAG THAT GEN Z DEMOGRAPHIC.
In an astonishing display of succinct storytelling and rapid-fire editing, the opening credits, Mark Wahlberg’s character’s entire backstory, and the title card are all trash compacted into a little under two minutes. Why, you ask? It’s literally just to get Post Malone on the screen as soon as possible. Honestly, he was the only reason I clicked on this movie, and sure enough, he popped up at approximately 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the runtime, portraying a member of a white supremacist prison gang. He promptly proceeds to shiv Mark Wahlberg in the back and… well that’s pretty much it. I crunched the numbers and Mr. Malone spends a total of just over five minutes on screen. But hey, it’s Netflix, sometimes you’ve gotta clickbait.
LESSON #2: MAKE SURE THE AUDIENCE KNOWS YOUR PROTAGONIST HAS A STRONG MORAL CODE.
We know this because Spenser’s girlfriend says “You always had a strong moral code”.
LESSON #3: MAKE SURE THE AUDIENCE KNOWS THAT THERE’S ZERO JUSTICE. EVER.
We know this because Spenser says “There’s zero justice. Ever.”
LESSON #4: GREYSCALE FLASHBACKS ARE SUPER COOL AND DEFINITELY DON’T REMIND YOU OF 2000’S MUSIC VIDEOS.
I thought greyscale flashbacks died out some time around 2004, but they’re back with a vengeance – spooky music, reverb on the dialogue, slow-mo – the whole shebang. I get that they were going for the “cop with a mysterious and tragic backstory” vibe, but it ends up less Mystic River and more Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.
LESSON #5: AMERICAN MEN ARE SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO TRUCKS.
I’m sorry but someone had to say it; what is it with American men and their trucks? Mark Wahlberg’s greatest ambition in this movie is to be a truck driver, because, once you’re a disgraced cop, it’s obviously the second manliest career path. En route to his driving lessons, he stops in awe to take in the sight of an enormous, shiny, jet black eighteen-wheeler. Soft, romantic music plays as he hesitantly approaches. He grips the gigantic wing mirror almost tenderly as he steps up to gaze into the cab, the camera performing a slow, sultry pan over the tasteful fur upholstery and bespoke walnut panelling. He stares a little longer before finally tearing himself away to turn back to the driving centre. “Beautiful truck” he remarks to his instructor, who tells him its name: Black Betty. Let’s not beat around the bush here – Spenser has sexual feelings for a large goods vehicle. Sort it out, America.
LESSON #6: PLEASE DON’T WATCH THIS FILM. PLEASE. I’M BEGGING YOU. THERE’S SO MANY GOOD FILMS ON NETFLIX RIGHT NOW. WATCH THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, OR CLUELESS OR SOMETHING, I DON’T KNOW.
I had to fast-forward the last thirty minutes on my second watch. It was painful. I can’t stop thinking about the way Mark Wahlberg looked at that truck.
LESSON #7: ALWAYS SET UP A SEQUEL.
That being said, if the blatant sequel-bait at the end of this bloated monstrosity works, I am 100% strapped in and ready for Spenser Confidential 2. I wonder which pop star is going to mortally wound Mark Wahlberg this time? Hope it’s Ed Sheeran.