A Medley Of Disjointed Ideas
On the surface, Spenser Confidential has all the ingredients to be a fun, action-comedy romp. The dysfunctional duo, the quirky jokes, the deep-running conspiracy and twisting story with a big mystery are all here, ready to be mixed into an exciting flick. Unfortunately the execution lacks any sort of finesse, blurring into a messy medley of ideas that don’t gel well together.
The story opens with officer Spenser being arrested and spending 5 years in prison. We then cut forward to his release, where Spenser finds himself juggling new roommate Hawk and the execution of Police Captain Boylan. As the film progresses, Spenser starts to look into the mystery with him wrapped up in a conspiracy of dirty cops, a placed called Wonderland and inevitable violence. Of course, in true action-thriller fashion, all of this builds up to a dramatic fight for survival at the end before incredibly leaving things open for a potential sequel.
As the film progresses, it jumps back and forth between comedic one-liners and amusing scenes with more serious, investigative work that just don’t gel well together, offsetting the tone and pace of the film.
Spenser Confidential has a real issue with exposition, and at times the clunky delivery of lines really hurts the film’s integrity. As an example, very early on we’re shown several establishing shots of the prison before heading inside and receiving a clunky, unnecessary block of text telling us we are, infact, inside the prison. It’s something that immediately sets the film on the wrong path and never course corrects itself across the run-time.
Even worse, the film juggles its comedy in a really clumsy manner, with most of the scenes lacking decent punch-lines and the long-running gags, especially involving Spenser’s dog, failing to hit those comedic heights needed to make these worth persevering with. Throughout the film there are cutaways to a notepad that emphasize what Spenser is feeling too. One particular scene is unintentionally satirical, cutting with intense orchestral music as Spenser writes out obvious questions. It’s supposed to be a dramatic moment but it really fails to land, which is true for a lot of the jokes here.
This jarring tone spills across to the sound design too, which regularly switches between a dark, orchestral score during the investigative moments and upbeat pop music during fights. It’s such an odd medley of tunes that never really settle into a consistent rhythm.
Spenser Confidential is a big, dumb action-thriller but it lacks the charm to pull this off in a competent manner. The comedy rarely lands, the characters feel paper-thin and lack depth, while the story itself is predictable without the fun factor to disguise this.
It’s not the worst film of the year, and there’s still enjoyment to be had with this, but beyond a few of the action scenes there just isn’t a whole lot else worth getting excited about. In a way, Spenser Confidential should have been released in the Summer, along with the slew of other films of its kind, but this Spring release is unlikely to be remembered for very long when the final credits roll.