Hawk and Spenser in "Spenser Confidential"

‘Spenser Confidential’ Is Popular, but Falls Short of Other Netflix Originals

The movie was panned by critics, but it still earned a spot in Netflix's Top 10 most popular list.
March 21, 2020
6 mins read

“Is that Post Malone?” I thought, as I reached for my phone to Google the cast of “Spenser Confidential” mid film. The results were correct: Post Malone indeed appeared in this Netflix original, making it safe to say that Netflix has done it again. It produced another hit movie with some well-placed celebrity appearances.

Though it’s a hit, the film received a lot of critical reviews and probably will be forgotten by the end of this article.

The movie was released on Friday, March 6.  During its release weekend and the week of March 11, “Spenser Confidential” held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on Netflix’s Top 10 list of most popular films and shows in the United States. Netflix’s Top 10 list methodology is based on whether or not subscribers choose to watch a program for at least two minutes.

Not only does Netflix give these Top 10 lists their own tabs, but they can be viewed when browsing through genre or a personal list. Each program in the overall Top 10 also has its own badge, making it easier for viewers to know what’s hot or not.

Despite being on the Top 10, “Spenser Confidential” was mocked by critics. The film, an action comedy, stars Mark Wahlberg as Spenser and Winston Duke as Hawk, who pair up under rocky circumstances to investigate a murder. There’s corruption, personal struggles and a crazy girlfriend. But I won’t spoil it for you — that much.

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With a star such as Mark Wahlberg, how did the film receive a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.2 on IMDb? Maybe it’s the already touchy subject of cops and corruption. Recent events have made the public attitude toward cops not as favorable as they used to be. Perception of how the police do their job varies by race and geographic location. Yet, in the case of the film, what landed Spenser in prison is what the majority would say was the right thing to do.

The film opened up with Spenser getting into a dispute and assaulting his police captain, who we found out later is as corrupt as they can get. Turns out that “Spenser Confidential” is based on the New England book series “Spenser.”

The “Spenser” books were turned into a TV series, which followed Detective Spenser and his partner, Hawk, who solved crimes around Boston. The film, too, took place in Boston, and Wahlberg is a Boston native, so the connection of the film to the books and TV series is evident, along with the accent.

Netflix tends to stick close to the source when adapting books, such as “13 Reasons Why” or “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Though I’m not familiar with the works of the New England franchise, it may be worth checking out. It’s also possible that “Spenser Confidential” received a bad rap because it didn’t have the quality that other Wahlberg movies have.

The film could be compared to a TV drama stretched out to the length of a film. Jokes were inserted into scenes, even when a scene would’ve been just fine without them.

Now, let’s not forget about Post Malone and his two appearances as a cellmate. The film was Malone’s first feature film, and he actually tried to bring a 12-pack of Bud Light while filming the first scene he appeared in. One of these scenes involved his character, Squeeb, fighting Spenser and stabbing him with a shiv simply because he doesn’t like cops. Could the pointless fights be another reason for critique?

Or maybe it was the discreet promotion of the film. Unless you followed Netflix, Wahlberg, Malone and the other actors on social media, it didn’t get much media attention. It was another film that just popped up on the feature screen like many others.

Instagram will load in the frontend.

Think back to Sandra Bullock’s “Bird Box,” which was based on a thriller novel as well, or the original screenplay of “Murder Mystery,” which starred Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

“Bird Box” went worldwide in memes and even led to the creation of its own social media challenge where people recorded themselves attempting to perform tasks with a blindfold on. The challenge ended up coming to extremes, such as walking outside and driving cars blindfolded. Thankfully “Spenser Confidential” doesn’t have people walking around fighting with machetes, yet.

It is safe to say the film ended with a perfect opportunity for a part two. Just like many crime shows or films, it left off with closing the investigation only to have another mystery to solve. Netflix rarely does film sequels, with exceptions for much loved movies like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” It’s better known for adding seasons to its original series.

In comparison to other Netflix originals, “Spenser Confidential” may have had a little more excitement in its scenes, though there wasn’t much of a reaction, even with a rapper like Post Malone.

So, what even started Netflix originals? The first Netflix original was arguably “House of Cards” in 2013, which starred Kevin Spacey and resulted in six seasons. Netflix actually had trouble in the past in regard to increasing subscribers, so the decision was made to focus on producing original content, allowing Netflix to save on licensing and time.

The idea of an original is that it is exclusively set and accessed in that streaming service. To watch any of the binge worthy shows such as “Stranger Things,” “Sex Education” or “Love Is Blind,” you have to be subscribed to Netflix.

Many may think that subscribing to Netflix isn’t worth it unless there’s a series that they absolutely love, like “The Office” or “Friends.” Well, Netflix originals are becoming more and more popular. Going back to the Top 10 in the U.S., more than half of the shows on the list are created by Netflix, so think again. Even if a film is as forgettable as “Spenser Confidential,” there’s still more to watch.

Mirella Gonzales, Texas Tech University

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Mirella Gonzales

Texas Tech University
M.A. in Strategic Communication and Innovation

A student, writer, bikini competitor and cookie butter lover trying to find the balance between living and learning.

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