Patriots Day review: Boston bombing thriller isn’t subtle, but delivers on action

As a white-knuckle ride, Peter Berg’s thrilling chase film is flawless - just don't expect any insight or inclusiveness

Mark Wahlberg’s fictional cop hunts the Boston Marathon bombers in Patriots Day.

Film Title: Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J. K. Simmons, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Michelle Monaghan

Genre: Action

Running Time: 133 min

Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:33


Deep into this thrilling chase film – the first of two Boston Marathon bombing movies due this year – dozens of snipers take position for a final shootout with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev only to find that a female cop from Framingham, replete with robust, sweary Boston drawl, has already staked out a rooftop position. It’s a surprising encounter in a movie that reduces almost all its other female roles to the dreary condition of Concerned Wife on Telephone.

 This imbalance makes for a missed opportunity for a film that hopes to pay tribute – stay tuned for the lengthy epilogue – to Beantown’s proud community spirit.

Elsewhere, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are drawn as disgruntled losers, in accordance with their tabloid profiles. Dzhokhar is hapless and stoned even while throwing bombs; Tamerlan is his bully-boy “stop hitting yourself” older brother.  

Suffice it to say, Patriots Day is not big on insight or inclusiveness. But as a police procedural and later a white-knuckle ride in which cops give chase to bad guys, it’s flawless. In the aftermath of the bombing, Peter Berg – the action director Michael Bay wants to be when he grows up – swerves effortlessly between various law enforcers, including Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Sgt Jeffrey Pugliese (JK Simmons) and (mostly) Mark Wahlberg as a fictionalised Wahlbergian-style sergeant, as they swiftly mount a city-wide investigation.

Powered along by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score, the film’s strongest sequence concerns Dun Meng (Jimmy O Yang), the driver carjacked by the Tsarnaevs during their eventful getaway. Commendably, Berg – who has previously proved his directorial clout on Friday Night Lights (2004) and Lone Survivor (2013) – eschews fast cuts for nerve-wrecking focus even during the crazed, explosive-heavy final stand-off.