The following post contains SPOILERS for Mile 22 you are going to think I made up and I first thought was something I imagined, but I swear to you this is real.

There aren’t many reasons to recommend Mile 22. As I already detailed in my review, it’s not a particularly good piece of entertainment. The action’s a mess and Mark Wahlberg spends the entire movie yelling at everyone, including a co-worker on her birthday. (“No birthday cake!” he screams as he literally smacks a piece of chocolate cake away from her.) There is only one clear rationale I can support for purchasing admission: To hear perhaps the nuttiest line of dialogue in any movie in 2018, and thereby confirm that it is actually in the film and I didn’t make it up while in some kind of dissociative fugue state brought on by watching this monstrosity.

That line is “Say hi to your mother for me.” Which, in another context, would not be that weird. But in this context it’s crazy, because this is a Mark Wahlberg film and that’s the most famous line in a recurring series of Saturday Night Live sketches making fun of Mark Wahlberg.

The sketches all starred Andy Samberg as Wahlberg, talking to various animals and invariably saying that same line over and over: “Say hi to your mother for me.” Here is a fairly representative example.

Wahlberg made his displeasure about the sketches public, even joking (I think he was joking?) that he “was going to crack that big f—ing nose of” Samberg’s on Jimmy Kimmel LiveEventually Wahlberg showed up on SNL to hash things out on air, in a sketch where he derided Samberg’s inaccurate impression while, of course, telling a variety of actors and animals to say hello to their mommies for him. This is way back in 2008.

Fast-forward to 2018. Now Wahlberg is starring in Mile 22, a bleak and bloody action thriller about a group of CIA agents who operate without governmental oversight. They murder their enemies with impunity. They get trapped in a hostile foreign country and have to shoot their way through 22 miles of enemy terrain to escape with an American informant. The stakes are high. Bones are broken, cars are obliterated with drone strikes. If Wahlberg’s team doesn’t secure their asset, terrorists will be able to detonate a dirty bomb bigger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

So naturally there’s a “Say hi to your mother for me!” joke.

It comes right at the end of the movie as the survivors of Wahlberg’s team arrive at the exfiltration plane with their “package,” Iko Uwais’ cop and double agent. Right as he boards the plane, Uwais turns to Wahlberg and tells him “Say hi to your mother for me.” Wahlberg reacts in shock. “What did you say to me?” Uwais smiles and boards the plane and Wahlberg remains confused.

There is one flimsy in-continuity reason to have Uwais say these words. Wahlberg’s covert team is known as “Overwatch,” and their comm designations are “Child 1,” “Child 2,” and so on, while their boss (John Malkovich) is referred to as “Mother.” So when Iko Uwais drops the say hi to your mother for me, he’s essentially clueing Wahlberg in to the fact that he knows more about Overwatch than he should, foreshadowing the fact that a few minutes later, Wahlberg will learn that Uwais’ character is actually a triple agent, and that his mission has been a setup.

That’s pretty meager justification, though, for a gag that essentially busts the reality of the film by calling an SNL sketch to mind. Mark Wahlberg acts so shocked when Uwais says it you’d swear he just pulled down his pants and dropped a deuce right in front of him. It completely pulls you out of the story.

It’s sort of a cute winking reference, but it comes at the worse possible moment, right as Mile 22 is about to resolve all its conflicts, reveal the secret plan that’s been going on behind the scenes the entire time, and set up a potential sequel involving Wahlberg and Uwais’ characters. Unless the sequel will co-star Andy Samberg too, this is not an effective sales pitch.

Mile 22 is in theaters now. If you go see it with her, say hi to your mother for me.

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