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Blood and guns

Mark Wahlberg as CIA operative James Silva (Murray Close/STX Entertainment)

Movie

Blood and guns

Gratuitously violent Mile 22 bombs with meaningless plot

The good news is that “no animals were harmed” in the making of Mile 22. The bad news is that depictions of violence against human beings splatter the screen from start to finish. The new film (rated R for strong violence and foul language throughout) frolics in spinning kicks, grenade blasts, gunshots to the head, and even an admittedly ironic beating death using pieces of a hospital bed. Adding insult to injuries, Mile 22 sidesteps the moral tightropes and political intrigues that protagonists navigate in some worthwhile action thrillers.

Mark Wahlberg plays James Silva, the leader of a small team of CIA operatives stationed at the U.S. Embassy in a large (fictional) Southeast Asian city. His group must transport Li Noor (Iko Uwais), supposedly a local cop, from the embassy to a waiting plane 22 miles away. In exchange for asylum in the United States, Noor says he’ll provide the code to unlock a computer disc that contains information on the whereabouts of stolen cesium. The missing radioactive material could wipe out several American cities.

The 22-mile route won’t be a Sunday drive, of course. Regional authorities and their federal colleagues want Noor, and they send a pack of gun-slinging motorcyclists after Silva’s team. And then there are the Russians, doing what they do best: A high-altitude plane full of laptop-clacking Russian spies are hacking communications between Silva’s team and Bishop (John Malkovich), the team’s intelligence guru, who’s wired into the city’s traffic cameras. What exactly the Russians want with Noor is the film’s single interesting question. (More on that below.)

Silva’s team includes Sam Snow (former UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey) and Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan). No cast member delivers a bad performance, but the characters have little appeal. Kerr spends much of the film locked in a video spat with her ex-husband via an expletive-blocking phone app (“Family Wizard”) specially designed for expletive-spitting exes. Really. And Silva’s barrage of insensitive comments leads his colleagues to debate whether he’s “bipolar,” “manic-depressive,” or simply a jerk. Wahlberg tries to carve his visage on the Mount Rushmore of wisecracking law-enforcement movie tough guys, but he lacks the grit of Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry), the charm of Bruce Willis (Die Hard), and the comic timing of Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon).

Does the Russian angle save the film? Unarguably, Russians remain the last remaining foreign bad guys allowed in cinema by political correctness. (I’m pretty sure it’s even still OK to refer to them as “Russkies” onscreen.) Even though the Cold War ended dozens of Oscars ago, Russians continue to antagonize American movie heroes, flying those hulking pea-green military planes and threatening terror from the skies. Mile 22 is no exception. But the short film ends abruptly, apparently setting up a sequel: The explanation for the Russians’ involvement makes for one of the lamest finales in recent memory.

Did I say no animals were hurt?