Patriots Day

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This is the third movie actor turned director Peter Berg has made with Mark Wahlberg. I liked Deepwater Horizon a few months ago, a film also based on real events. It gave a bit more insight into how the BP oil spill could’ve happened.

Lone Survivor was okay, despite the fact that I could never figure out the logic of the SEALS when they were attempting their escape.

I have bigger problems with Patriots Day. It feels a bit exploitative to cash in on this tragedy less than four years later. And if it’s going to be a tribute to the victims, and other Bostonians that showed tremendous amounts of courage, why create a fictional character? Yep. Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, who always seems to be right where the action is. That might mean the FBI arguing with the local cops. It might be finding one of the terrorists hiding in a boat (there isn’t a “spoiler alert” needed, is there?). It might be to question the foreign exchange student that got car jacked. He’s played by Jimmy O. Yang, who is also a terrific stand-up comedian and friend of mine. I asked him to give me a quote for the review and he shot me back this text: “Danny Meng is a real hero. It’s an honor to play him and help tell this story”

Saunders also at the hospital to comfort victims. He’s like the Forrest Gump of action pictures. On top of that, they throw all these cliches at us to sympathize with this fictional character. He has a bad knee, suffered in the line of duty. He’s recently gotten into trouble with his bosses. His wife can’t have children. He drinks a bit too much (although, I’m not sure why that means we’re supposed to sympathize with him, instead of feeling the opposite).

The first half of the movie felt forced. When I mentioned that to my wife she said, “The problem I was having was the same I had with Poseidon Adventure. You’re listening to conversations, and just wondering when those people will die.”

The shaky camera was also annoying. Sure, in the chaos of the bombing, that would work perfectly. In the beginning, when characters are just talking, it’s annoying.

It also looked like they cut in pieces of archival footage and still photos, which was a bit distracting.

I also found the one-liners to be a bit insulting. If this movie is going to pay tribute to victims, do we really need a cop on the roof, waiting for the kill shot on a terrorist, to be surprised to see two sharpshooters saddle up beside him. The scene is played for laughs and not only isn’t funny, it wouldn’t have happened that way.

John Goodman plays BPD Commissioner Ed Davis. Kevin Bacon plays FBI agent Richard DesLauries. Both of them add authority rather nicely.

J.K. Simmons plays Watertown Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese. He goes to Dunkin Donuts for his wife, and makes awkward conversation with the cashier. It won’t be Dunkin Donuts only appearance in the film, which also reminded me…if you’re getting product placement dollars, and are going to rake in millions with a Mark Wahlberg action flick…couldn’t 25% of the profits have gone to a victims’ fund? But I digress.

The Tsarnaev brothers are played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze. They do a great job conveying who they were — a college kid that sold pot and partied, and a radical that runs the show (and his wife, played by Melissa Benoist).

My wife and I wondered about MIT officer Sean Sollier (Jack Picking) and his courtship of a robotics student. If that all really happened, it made me realize…the fictional Wahlberg character wasn’t even needed. Just show us all these real characters and their stories. That would be compelling enough.

The movie was a bit heavy-handed and uneven. I’m also not sure who would really want to revisit this tragedy. My wife said, “I didn’t care so much for the movie, but would love to see a documentary about it all.”

When she said that, I thought about the real heroes from that day. One that comes to mind is the man with the cowboy hat. I Googled his name — Carlos Arredondo. He was absent from the film, but we all remember the photos of him carrying victims to safety.

With all these real life heroes Wahlberg has played, it makes me wonder how he wasn’t cast as Sully!

This gets 2 1/2 stars out of 5.