Mark Wahlberg is boring. We can all agree on this, right? Just watch this trailer for the Peter Berg-directed Mile 22, starring Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, and Ronda Rousey and arriving in theaters on August 3, and meet me on the other side. (We also included the trailer in a recent roundup.)
Good for Uwais, and ah yes, a reminder that Rousey is not an actress, but this is primarily a trailer attempting to sell audiences on Wahlberg as, once again, a tough-talking man of violence who doesn’t care about laws, he’s going to catch those damn terrorists by any means necessary! And holy shit, is Marky Mark an automaton. Put aside everything else about Walhberg—his racist behavior and assault, the homophobic crap he talked about Brokeback Mountain, that time he said he could have stopped Sept. 11—and let’s consider his filmography only. HE IS ALWAYS PLAYING THE SAME DUDE.
It is impressive in its consistency, and in its dullness—hyper-masculine roles, often police or military, always the bravest and toughest guy in the room, sometimes willing to poke fun at his own reputation but ultimately with the conclusion that he was right about the stuff that mattered. And man, is that shtick exhausting.
Let us observe a selection of the past decade or so of Wahlberg’s works. You can do it. We’ll get through this together.
2006’s The Departed (possibly the only dramatic role in which I really enjoy Wahlberg, and honestly it’s because of those final few minutes): Boston police sergeant
2007’s Shooter: Military veteran sniper
2007’s We Own the Night: NYPD captain
2008’s Max Payne: NYPD detective
2009’s The Lovely Bones: Grieving father who does amateur detective work to find his daughter’s murderer
2010’s Date Night: Badass action hero, often shirtless
2010’s The Other Guys (in which I think Wahlberg is a legitimately good straight man dancing sarcastically alongside Will Ferrell’s insanity, but this pairing would grow old with Daddy’s Home): NYPD detective
2010’s The Fighter: Boston-adjacent boxer
2012’s Contraband: Ex-smuggler drawn back into the criminal world to protect his brother
2012’s Ted: Boston-adjacent pothead who doesn’t seem to have a job but still manages to date Mila Kunis
2013’s Broken City: NYPD detective (goddamn, dude, BRANCH OUT A LITTLE)
2013’s Pain and Gain: Bodybuilder convict and murderer. Possibly the only time Wahlberg has played someone truly malevolent who isn’t given some kind of redemptive arc? Maybe the first time he’s done this since 1996’s honestly enjoyable Fear, which I first watched in secrecy and delight on UPN many years ago. Here, have some gifs of Reese Witherspoon’s bad romance:
2013’s 2 Guns: Undercover Navy SEAL
2013’s Lone Survivor (the first film of Wahlberg’s ongoing collaboration with Peter Berg): Navy SEAL sniper who is also, you know, the titular lone survivor
2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction (the beginning of Wahlberg’s run in the franchise while stepping in for Shia LaBeouf): Inventor Cade Yeager, which is both the most unlikely Wahlberg occupation and the character name that makes me laugh in derision, like, all the time
2014’s The Gambler: Gambler and literature professor, which, you know, LOL. Was this supposed to be good? Brie Larson was in this, right? Please report back in the comments.
2015’s Ted 2: Still a Boston-adjacent pothead who doesn’t seem to have a job but still manages to date
Mila Kunis Amanda Seyfried
2015’s Daddy’s Home: Muscular tough dad who traffics in gender stereotypes and some light racism and makes Will Ferrell’s more-sensitive, not-terrible stepdad feel uncomfortable; I had to sit through the 2017 sequel to this movie and I will never recover
2016’s Deepwater Horizon (Berg collaboration #2): BP oil-rig technician, based on a real person, who is a hero, of course
2016’s Patriots Day (EVEN MORE PETER BERG): Boston police sergeant, a totally fictional character, who is a hero during the Boston Marathon, of course
2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight: Still laughing about Cade Yeager, don’t mind me
2017’s All the Money in the World: Former CIA operative turned investigator; there’s no way whatever work he put in was worth being paid a bajillion percent more than Michelle Williams
That’s … a lot, right? A lot of sameness, a very limited, narrow idea of what it is to be a hero. Remember when Wahlberg thought Andre Royo was actually an addict while he played Bubbles on The Wire? As I mentioned in the comment thread for my piece about The Wire winning our recent March Madness TV bracket, that story was utterly unsurprising because I’m not sure Wahlberg really understands the idea of acting as a transformative process where you can challenge yourself and expand your idea of who you are and what you’re capable of being and doing.
Playing an NYPD detective, CIA operative, or Navy SEAL, or fetishizing the straight, white, working-class hero over and over again, is not that. Saying lines of dialogue like “We get shit done” and “I’m a killer who looks like a hero” is not that. Mile 22 looks like a snooze.
Take it away, Jason Schwartzman.