THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Boston Strong’ at the movies

Published 12:05 am Friday, January 13, 2017

As a portrait of American heroism and the values of law and order, the new movie “Patriots Day” is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that solidifies Mark Wahlberg’s status as Hollywood’s foremost, everyman hero.

This is his third collaboration with director Peter Berg, and the two have developed an effective chemistry that once again gives the actor some legitimate performance moments to keep the critics at bay. It also features several action sequences that will have audiences cheering on the Boston Strong good guys.

This is the story of the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, and so there’s an uneasy tension as the film lays character groundwork before the bombs actually detonate. Berg introduces us to Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg), an officer who’s in the doghouse with his superiors, which is why he’s been assigned to work security for the marathon. We also get to meet some of the runners and spectators, as well as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze), the bombers behind the terrorist attack.

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Once the bombs explode, the story follows several threads at a breakneck pace. Kevin Bacon plays the FBI Agent who coordinates the investigation with Boston Law enforcement officials (John Goodman). Wahlberg and J.K. Simmons lead the street level charge to catch the bombers, and the filmmakers give us glimpses into the personal lives of the terrorists behind the attacks. It’s interesting that the Tsarnaev brothers are frequently portrayed as squabbling and inept, instead of simply being cartoon villains.

I was most moved by the plight of the victims, including a young couple who lose track of their toddler son when they are rushed off to separate hospitals. It’s a minor part of the movie, but one that will certainly put a lump in the throats of any parents who might be in the audience.

I was on the edge of my seat as the law enforcement closes in on the two killers. The hijacking of a Chinese student’s car and a street shootout where the bad guys are tossing pipe bombs at the police are two particularly effective sequences. The secret to the success of this movie is that it is a crowd-pleasing action film at its heart, but one that recognizes the values of adding fleshed out characters and genuine emotional values to give the film some emotional heft.

Some people are complaining that this is simply Hollywood exploiting a national tragedy for financial gain. That may be true, but I suspect that most audiences won’t care. “Patriots Day” is a film that honors law enforcement heroes and holds American resilience up as a value that can’t be taken down by a few terrorist bombs. It’s a movie that reminds us that for a few days in 2013, all of America was “Boston Strong.”

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at