Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg rings false

Mark Wahlberg’s new vehicle purports to tell the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. While “Patriots Day” works in some ways, especially in its intriguing blow-by-blow of the events before and after the attack, the film is ham-fisted. It works so hard to evoke a sense of teary patriotism it leaves behind a grimy feeling.

The problems start with Wahlberg’s character, Sgt. Tommy Saunders. This cop manages to be at the bombing site, FBI investigator’s strategy meetings in a command center, and a Mobil station where he helps rescue the bombers’ hostage. He also pops up at the shootout with the suspects, and the final apprehension of the surviving suspect. He’s everywhere.

But there was no real Tommy Saunders. A composite character with a bum knee, he’s meant to be an homage to the many Boston cops who worked the case. This becomes confusing and annoying because most of the rest of the characters are based on real individuals —  people, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Vincent Curatola), Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and lead FBI investigator Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon). A composite character can work, but I felt manipulated and was distracted by Saunders’ Zelig-ness.

Another major distraction were the advertisements for Dunkin Donuts. MIT officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking) was handed a “Coolatta” — yes a, specifically spoken, trademarked Dunkin beverage — shortly before being killed by terrorists trying to steal his gun.

There is little sense in terrorism, and those of us who have lived through it, including anyone who was in New York in September 2001, are repulsed by most efforts to impose narrative sense on senseless slaughter. Director Peter Berg wants us to believe the bombing had positive effects in uniting the city, making it “Boston Strong.” I think everyone including maimed runners were better without terrorism.