Skip to main content

Movie Review: “Spenser Confidential”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Spenser Confidential

Netflix Release: 3/6/2020

Netflix Release: 3/6/2020


Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) used to be a cop in Boston. His career, however, took a hard turn when he assaulted his boss at his boss' home. Spenser had his reasons, and his boss had just assaulted his own wife on top of those reasons—and Spenser had had enough. His boss may have deserved it, but his boss was a high ranking police official in a corrupt precinct. Thus, Spenser went to prison for five years. He is now being released from prison after serving his sentence, and wants to get out of Boston. Unfortunately, there are still things going on in Boston which Spenser cannot look away from.

His former boss has just been murdered, on the very same day that Spenser was released from prison. There was another cop, a good cop, who appears to have killed Spenser's former boss before killing himself. The whole thing seems suspicious, and Spenser refuses to believe that the good cop could have done this. Spenser cannot walk away from this, and is determined to clear the good cop's name. However, Spenser is no longer a cop, so he will need some unlikely help. He has his ex-girlfriend (Iliza Shleshinger), his new roomate and MMA trainee (Winston Duke), and his old friend and trainer (Alan Arkin). It is an unlikely group, but they are a grieving family's only hope at clearing the good cop’s name.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Spenser & The Case (+5pts)

Dirty Cops (-3pts)

Hawk, Henry, & Cissy (+5pts)

The FBI (-1pts)

Action & Comedy (+5pts)

Driscoll & Predictability (-5pts)


Pro: Spenser & The Case (+5pts)

I liked the character of Spenser more than I thought I would. I was ready for another typical Mark Wahlberg role, and that was more or less what Spenser was, but I liked the character’s drive to do what was right. This was a character that could not look the other way if he felt that injustice was being done. He was the kind of character that people aspire to be like.

This case did not really have anything to do with Spenser. Sure, the victim was someone that he had a heated history with, but the murder had nothing to do with him, and Spenser easily could have just looked the other way and moved on. However, he knew that there was something off. He knew an innocent man's name was being dragged through the dirt, and he knew that the innocent man's family was suffering for it. Thus, Spenser got involved with great risk to his own life outside prison, and it was admirable decisions like that which made Spenser an easy character to follow.


Con: Dirty Cops (-3pts)

I did not like the dirty cops in this movie because it seemed like they were everywhere. There were just so many of them that it made the ones that were dirty less special. It felt like it was Spenser against the entire police force, which kind of worked, but was also just too ridiculous for me. I mean, really? All of them were corrupt?

I just could not by how many of them were dirty, and it made the movie feel unrealistic. If you want to stack the deck against the protagonist, I get it, but you should not do it so much that you take your audience out of the movie. That was what the filmmakers did by having so many dirty cops in this story. They effectively stacked the deck against Spenser, but it took me out of the movie a few times as more dirty cops were revealed.

Scroll to Continue

Pro: Hawk, Henry, & Cissy (+5pts)

All of these characters worked for me. First there was Hawk—the brute, roommate, and MMA wannabe—who had a temper as well as a sweet spot for animals such as dogs and cats. This character was effective when in action, but the character’s personality also provided a handful of comedic moments. I liked the character of Hawk, but he was not alone as far as supporting characters that I liked.

Henry was Spenser’s mentor and trainer, and was played by Alan Arkin. I always really enjoy Alan Arkin’s comedic style, and this movie was no different. Finally there was Cissy, Spenser’s ex-girlfriend. Cissy was played by Iliza Shlesinger, whose personality during her standup comedy is usually too much for me. However, she did well in this role and I actually ended up enjoying the character quite a bit. She had a temper, and seemed pretty unstable, but it made for some of the movie’s funnier moments. I liked the character of Spenser, but I also really enjoyed the group of supporting protagonists.


Con: The FBI (-1pts)

I really do not know why these characters were even in this movie. They kind of popped up in the story randomly, contributed nothing, then made a couple other meaningless appearances. They seemed to be after the same people that Spenser was after, but they did not help Spenser at all, they did not want Spenser's help, and they were not even after Spenser for getting involved. Were these characters a huge issue for me? No, because they were hardly in the movie. I just did not understand why the filmmakers felt the need to spend any screen time on them, if they were going to contribute absolutely nothing to the story.


Pro: Action & Comedy (+5pts)

This movie did not have jaw-dropping action, but the action that was in here was entertaining enough to keep me totally invested in the movie. There were tons of brawls, machete fights, shoot outs, and Spenser was on the receiving end of a lot of hard hits, but he dished plenty out as well. Additionally, this movie did not have laugh-out-loud, knee smacking comedy, but it was funny, with an assortment of main protagonists that had a lot of amusing interactions with one another. I guarantee you have seen action-comedies with both better action and better comedy than this movie had, but this movie was still entertaining for what it was. It had enough funny moments to keep the tone light, and it had plenty of decent action to keep me going. The combination made for a decent action-comedy that was fun to watch.


Con: Driscoll & Predictability (-5pts)

Whether it was Spenser‘s old partner, or the entire plot in general, this story was pretty predictable. Probably about halfway through the movie, Spenser made a discovery that was initially unexpected, but resulted in the second half—arguably the most important half—of the movie being pretty predictable. First there was Driscoll—Spenser’s old partner—who was written very stereotypically and was ultimately pretty underdeveloped. Then there was the case that Spenser was working on, which was predictably typical after the discovery and was therefore uninteresting. The filmmakers did a decent job of intriguing me during the beginning of the movie, but I felt that they showed their hand too early, and it made me less interested in what was happening, because I felt like I had seen it all before.

Grading Scale






























Grade: B- (81pts)

I was not expecting an amazing movie out of Spenser Confidential, but I saw it advertised on Netflix and I thought it looked like a decently entertaining action movie, and that was exactly what it was. Neither the action nor the comedy will blow you away, but both were effective enough to keep me entertained and satisfied. There was plenty of action throughout, and a number of comedic characters. Then there was Spenser, a character that I expected to be an average action protagonist, but whose story I actually quite enjoyed.

Spenser was a character that could not turn a blind eye to injustice, even if acting resulted in him damaging his own life, career, and reputation. If he saw something wrong happening, he became driven to seeing that those responsible got what was coming to them. He was good to a fault, and I found it interesting to see how doing the right thing cost him so much, and his inability to stop doing the right thing despite everything he had already lost because of it. The movie was not perfect, however. The antagonists were generic and poorly written, the dirty cops were unrealistically abundant, and the overall plot was very predictable in the second half of the movie. Fortunately, the main protagonists were entertaining, the action was decent and regular, and Spenser was a main character whose story I enjoyed. This all came together to make this a decently entertaining action movie.

Related Articles