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What is ‘Spenser Confidential’ Based on?

March 6, 2020
4 min read

Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg seemed to have formed their own little super team. The duo have previously worked together for ‘Lone Survivor’, ‘Deepwater Horizon’, ‘Patriots Day’ and Mile 22′. Apart from their last collaboration, each of these films are riveting thrillers based on true stories that center around solitary men fighting odds to survive. ‘Spenser Confidential’, with its similar themes, has the pair collaborating for the fifth time.

‘Spenser Confidential’ introduces us to the eponymous Spenser, played by Wahlberg, as a former boxer and cop who was stripped of his badge and sentenced to prison for assaulting, Boylan, a corrupted police superior. The film opens with Spenser re-entering the free world, but things take a drastic turn when the same police captain ends up dead. ‘Spenser Confidential’ centers around the former detective teaming up with his roommate, Hawk, and old boxing trainer, Henry, to unravel the twister murders of two Boston police officers.

The film is a compelling murder mystery thriller that follows a righteous ex-cop’s journey to redemption. But it simultaneously manages to poke fun at itself, and is considerably lighthearted compared to Wahlberg and Berg’s past endeavours. But given that the two have consistently worked together on docudramas in the past, one can’t help but wonder if ‘Spencer Confidential’ too is inspired by real men and events. In case you’re wondering the same, we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know.

Is ‘Spenser Confidential’ Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Spenser Confidential’ is not based on a true story. The film marks a change in direction for the frequent collaborators who are known for their fast-paced, intense thrillers rooted in reality. ‘Deepwater Horizon’ and ‘Patriots Day’ are the biggest examples of these, with the first being based on the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, while the latter is based on the Boston Marathon bombings. With ‘Spenser Confidential’, however, the duo take inspiration from the fictional world of a Boston P.I.

‘Spenser Confidential’ is a loose adaptation of a novel by Ace Atkins titled, Wonderland. The book, in turn, continues the adventures of the famous Boston detective, Spenser, who was created by Robert B. Parker for his novels. If the detective’s name sounds familiar to you it is because the Netflix film is not his first stint on-screen.

The hit television series from 1980s, ‘Spenser: For Hire’, introduced the Boston private eye to the small screen. The series, developed by John Wilder, had Robert Urich starring as the titular character, and was broadcast on ABC from 1985 to 1988. It also marked the small screen introduction of Hawk, Spenser’s offbeat friend and sidekick. The character has since then appeared on several TV movies, most of which were based on Parker’s novels.

Robert Parker introduced Spenser’s character with his debut crime novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, in 1973. Due to its success, Parker turned Spenser’s investigations into a long-running series. In fact, the Boston private eye has been the central character in around forty of Parker’s novel, from 1973 to 2011. In 2011, after Parker’s death, American crime reporter and author, Ace Atkins was selected by the estate of Robert Parker to take over the Spenser series and continue his legacy. ‘Spenser Confidential’ is based on Atkins’ 2013 novel called Wonderland.  

Atkins’ novel has Spenser teaming up with Henry Cimoli, his old boxing trainer, as the two investigate a mystery that leads them to a mysterious woman, a Las Vegas kingpin. It explores the themes of aspiration and greed, in a twisted tale which reveals the ugly side of Boston politics. The book gets its name from Boston’s Wonderland Greyhound Park which was built on the site of the former Wonderland Amusement Park that operated in the early 1900s.

Peter Berg’s film is considered to be a very loose adaptation of the novel, and only makes use of the names of the characters created by Robert B. Parker. The film takes several liberties from the original premise of the novel, as well as the characterizations created by Parker himself. It is believed that Parker created the beloved Boston detective in the mold of Raymond Chandler’s famous hard-boiled private eye, Philip Marlowe, a tough man with a heart of gold.

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