Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg‘s Patriots Day (CBS Films/Lionsgate, 12.21) is a fine, efficient, fact-based thriller about the 2013 Boston marathon bombing and its aftermath. As I wrote on 11.22, Berg tries to emulate the Paul Greengrass aesthetic, and he more or less accomplishes that with the help of dp Tobias Schliessler and the bouncy, brilliant editing is by Colby Parker Jr. and Gabriel Fleming.
The editing during the already-celebrated Watertown gunfight sequence between the Tasrnaev brothers (Alex Wolff‘s Dzhokhar, Themo Melikidze‘s Tamerlan) and local cops is easily one of the best of its kind. The worst violent action sequences around, hands down, are always found in superhero-fantasy films because you can never believe in the physics — it’s always the same CG body-slam razmatazz in which the adversaries never get tired or confused or hurt. But when a shootout feels as chaotically real and crazy as it does in Patriots Day, it really makes you sit up in your seat and lean forward.
Not that I’m immune to slick, well-choreographed gunplay (like that famous downtown L.A. bank robbery sequence in Michael Mann‘s Heat or that moment when Tom Cruise plugs a couple of street thieves in the space of three seconds in Collateral), but sloppy, chaotic action always feels best. The Watertown cops are scared and confused, especially due to the Tsarnaev’s tossing a series of grenade-like pipe bombs. Nobody knows who has the upper hand, and it’s all edge and anxiety and a lot of shouting and swearing. I’ve seen Patriots Day a second time because of this sequence, and I’m thinking of going back to see it again.
What gun battle sequences have delivered on this level? The attack on Osama bin Laden‘s three-story headquarters in Zero Dark Thirty was one; ditto a second-act shoot-out in The Hurt Locker. The floor is open.
Here’s an example of one of the “Boston, fuck yeah!” trailers, which Patriots Day is actually not if you ignore the final four or five minutes.