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"PATRIOTS DAY"
(2017) (Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Various law enforcement figures and others contend with the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent hunt for the suspects.
PLOT:
It's April 2013 and Boston police detective Tommy Saunders (MARK WAHLBERG) is nearing the end of his work suspension, and one last assignment is that he'll have to man the Boston Marathon in a security role. After saying goodbye to his wife, Carol (MICHELL MONAGHAN), he heads downtown for the event, as do a number of other people. That includes married couple Patrick Downes (CHRISTOPHER O'SHEA) and Jessica Kensky (RACHEL BROSNAHAN) who have the day off; Steve Woolfenden (DUSTIN TUCKER) and his toddler son; and police superintendent Billy Evans (JAMES COLBY) who's running in the race.

Little do they know that siblings Tamerlan Tsarnaev (THEMO MELIKIDZE) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (ALEX WOLFF) have become radicalized and created several pressure cooker bombs they're going to use in a terrorist event at the finish line of the race. When those go off, Tommy springs into action as do others, tending to the wounded. It's not long before the rest of the authorities arrive, including police commissioner Ed Davis (JOHN GOODMAN); Governor Deval Patrick (MICHAEL BEACH); and FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers (KEVIN BACON) who determines the act was indeed terrorism-related.

As they set up a task force center and start sorting through the evidence and surveillance footage from cameras located near the event, others elsewhere don't realize how their lives are going to be affected. That includes M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier (JAKE PICKING) who's sweet on one of the students there, Li (LANA CONDOR); Dun Meng (JIMMY O. YANG) who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time; and Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. SIMMONS) of the nearby Watertown Police Department who eventually finds his locale the center point of the manhunt for the two suspects.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
While I wish every film could be perfect in every way, I have a basic litmus test for the effectiveness of any cinematic offering and that's whether it makes you feel something. If it's a tearjerker did you cry? Were you scared in the horror movie, or did you laugh in the comedy?

It really doesn't make any difference what the emotion is as long as it's correct for the intention of the genre (you probably don't want to be mad watching a comedy, amused by a tearjerker or aroused by the overall theme and storyline of a horror flick).

In that regard, the recent offerings by director Peter Berg have hit me emotionally (in a choked up sort of way) when I wasn't really expecting that. Sure, the loss and heroism in "Lone Survivor" was certainly something, but that ending of seeing the real people did me in. And the moments of loved ones worrying about and then finding each other in the oil rig disaster flick "Deepwater Horizon" had the same sort of effect.

That latter emotional genesis is also present in "Patriot's Day," the director's look at the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013 and the immediate aftermath of trying to hunt down the perpetrators. Granted, the overall story -- penned by Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer in the adaptation of Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge's book "Boston Strong" -- is that of sudden loss, life-changing events, and the work of strangers to help the victims and process justice, so there's plenty of emotionally charged material already present.

But I've sat through plenty of similar films and not had the same sort of reaction at key moments as I did in this offering and the director's previous two. Perhaps one day I'll go back and more closely examine them to figure out what Berg is doing, but whatever it is, it's subtle and not overtly and obviously manipulative in attempts to pull the old emotional strings.

I doubt it's the presence of Mark Wahlberg who's appeared in all three of those films, but he's good in the film's lead role which is a fictitious one representing the many Boston police officers who immediately reacted to the attack and then worked tirelessly trying to resolve it. Most every other character, though, is based on a real person tied to the event ranging from the victims, various government officials and yes, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Berg and company have fashioned this account as something of a combination of the trappings of a disaster movie and a police/FBI procedural. The first half of that pertains to the introduction of the various people who are going about their normal lives (played by the likes of Christopher O'Shea, Rachel Brosnahan and Dustin Tucker as initial victims and Jake Picking and Jimmy O. Yang who later have bad run-ins with the bad guys), unaware of what's going to transpire, and then following some of them after disaster strikes.

The second involves police and government officials (Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and others fill these roles) looking for and through evidence and clues that might be used to solve the case, namely the use of surveillance camera footage that helps them figure out who's responsible. With so many characters, some of them end up shortchanged in terms of screen time. And along those same lines, the film often has problems similar to disaster flicks in terms of jumping around from storyline to storyline.

Overall, however, "Patriots Day" is a solidly told film with a solid message, and an offering that hits the right emotional notes at the right dramatic moments. It rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed January 9, 2017 / Posted January 13, 2017


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