‘Patriots Day’ oversimplifies the role of Boston police, first responders

He slurps the milk out of his cereal bowl, says “yo” and “dawg” and complains bitterly that not only is he not allowed to drive the Mercedes-Benz he and his brother carjacked, but it doesn’t even have Bluetooth or an iPod dock so he can listen to his music.

You’d hate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) even if he weren’t responsible for murdering four people, injuring hundreds more and terrorizing an entire city for more than four days.

That’s the main takeaway of “Patriots Day,” the Boston Marathon bombing movie that turns Mark Wahlberg into SuperCop: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a massive tool.

It’s not that the look at the 2013 attacks is too soon — although it’s not as though enough time has passed for anyone who was even remotely paying attention to forget the details — it’s that “Patriots Day” is too little. There’s too little new information, too little character development and too little reason for it to exist.

I’m all for celebrating the real-life heroes and honoring the victims, which the movie does. Great respect is shown for the efforts of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Gov. Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons).

But by making Wahlberg’s Sgt. Tommy Saunders an amalgamation of several police officers and first responders, writer-director Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”) and his co-writers, Matt Cook (“Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (the “RoboCop” remake), sacrifice a large chunk of the film’s credibility.

Wahlberg’s Tommy is everywhere. He’s at the finish line when the bombs go off. He’s walking through the re-created crime scene at the FBI command center, recalling exactly which businesses would have had security cameras pointing the right way to capture images of the initial suspect like Boston’s answer to Sherlock — make that Sherlawk — Holmes. He’s even the first responder to look inside the boat in which a wounded Dzhokhar was hiding, all the way over in neighboring Watertown. It’s borderline silly, and it detracts from the work of the actual heroes.

Traumatized by everything he saw in the aftermath of the twin bombings — the chaos, the puddles and streams of blood, the detached limbs — Tommy sobs as his wife (Michelle Monaghan in a thankless role) comforts him. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Wahlberg cry, but it isn’t a pretty sight.

“Patriots Day” demonstrates just how unexpected the attacks by Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze), were. Prior to the bombings, the biggest problem faced by the police at the finish line was wrangling a weirdo who ran the marathon in a lobster costume. And, shortly before the streets of Watertown became a war zone, the main priority for the local police was that it had been too long since the speed limit was reduced on a certain road, and it was time to stop handing out warnings.

There isn’t much for Goodman or Bacon to do in “The Mark Wahlberg Show,” but they do it well. A few actors, though, are able to break through and shine for a moment or two when Wahlberg’s Tommy is ever so briefly pushed to the side.

Simmons is fantastic as he shows up in the middle of a raging Watertown gun battle, in which the Tsarnaevs have resorted to hurling bombs at police, to calmly flank the brothers and put an end to the madness. “Patriots Day” would have been a much more interesting film had it been told from his perspective.

Khandi Alexander strolls in and completely owns the joint for a few moments as the interrogator tasked with breaking Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radicalized widow, Katherine Russell (“Supergirl’s” Melissa Benoist).

And leave it to unheralded actress Sam Castriotta, who doesn’t even have an IMDb page, to make one of the movie’s biggest impressions as a local cop who refuses to yield to the FBI her rooftop perch overlooking the boat in which Dzhokhar sought refuge.

The best thing “Patriots Day” does is assemble a minidocumentary at the end, featuring the real people depicted in the film. It’s moving, inspiring and filled with emotion — everything the previous two hours are not.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

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