Last week’s reviews were accurate: Patriot’s Day works, delivers, does the job. And it’s not a “Boston fuck yeah!” film until the last five or six minutes in a tacked-on epilogue that pays tribute to all the real-life participants, heroes and victims of the April 2013 Boston Marathon massacre. Make no mistake — if you edit out the tribute section and a heartfelt but unnecessary movie-ish monologue delivered by Mark Wahlberg, Patriot’s Day (CBS Films, 12.21) is director Peter Berg‘s best film ever. Really. It’s sharp, fast, crackling and on-target for the most part. Not entirely but close. The 90% that works really works.
The Patriot’s Day highlight is an adrenalized Act Two sequence that follows the Tasrnaev brothers (Alex Wolff‘s Dzhokhar, Themo Melikidze‘s Tamerlan) as they hijack a car and get into a wild-ass gunfight with local cops in Watertown. J. K. Simmons‘ character, Watertown Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, plays a highly significant part in this shoot-out, and J.K. is almost good enough to warrant an acting nomination. Confident as shit. Alas, it’s not enough of a part.
To his credit, Berg tried to emulate the Paul Greengrass aesthetic, and he more or less accomplishes that. (The handheld lensing is by Tobias Schliessler, and the bouncy, brilliant editing is by Colby Parker Jr. and Gabriel Fleming.) Blame the CBS Films/Lionsgate marketing guys for suggesting in their trailers that Patriot’s Day would be some kind of “Boston, fuck yeah” thing. I responded to that suggestion, but now I’m happy to report that it isn’t that until the very end. This is a very well-handled thing — not an AA but a solid A-minus. And that’s good enough.
Congrats to Berg and producer-star Wahlberg for making a much-better-than-expected thriller. The irony is that as fearful as I was of watching a “Boston, fuck yeah!” flick, I actually felt heartened and even comforted by the exemplary behavior of the authorities in this film. When the actual “BFY!” epilogue happened, I just mentally tuned it out — no worries.