AFI Film Review: Mark Wahlberg in ‘Patriots Day’

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An intense, jittery re-creation of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the four-day manhunt that followed, “Patriots Day” is the movie CBS Films was put on this earth to produce. A couple decades earlier, such a headline-driven, quickie retelling of a traumatic news event might have been made expressly for the small screen, the way NBC rushed telepics like “In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco” onto its Sunday-night movie slot mere weeks after tragedy struck. But “Patriots Day” is no rush-job TV movie; it’s genuinely exciting megaplex entertainment, informed by extensive research, featuring bona fide movie stars, and staged with equal degrees of professionalism and respect — as suggested by the title, appropriated from the holiday on which the incident occurred. It’s also a sober homage from Boston native Mark Wahlberg, who produced alongside “Deepwater Horizon” director Peter Berg, chasing an opportunity to chase that true-story energy that fueled their earlier 2013 collaboration “Lone Survivor.” All this from the theatrical arm of what was once “the Geezer Network,” a company whose top-grossing film has been swan-song ensembler “Last Vegas.” But “Patriots Day” is a movie that could not only appeal across all demographics, but earns its place on the big screen — even if it’s the lesser of Wahlberg and Berg’s projects together. Where “Patriots Day” falls somewhat short of those two films, or even the Clint Eastwood and Paul Greengrass movies it’s trying so hard to emulate (most obviously “United 93”), is in its very concept: Why cast Wahlberg in a movie designed to honor all the victims, law enforcement officers, and everyday patriots whose lives were impacted by the terrorist act? Wahlberg may be the star, but he’s not the hero of “Patriots Day.” That would be Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), the young Chinese immigrant who called 911. And Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), the small-town police officer who actually tackled one of the terrorists. And the Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea), an MIT campus cop who refused to let them take his weapon. To the extent that the film works as a composite celebration...

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