‘Broken City’ is a political crime thriller, starring Mark Wahlberg as ex-cop turned private investigator Billy Taggart and Russell Crowe as Mayor Nicholas Hostetler. When Taggart is in court, set to be imprisoned for the murder of a New York thug, the Mayor pulls some strings to get him off the hook. Seven years later, with an election looming, it’s payback time when the Mayor asks Taggart to track his wife as he suspects she is having an affair. This leads to more than we as an audience, and Taggart, are first led to believe, uncovering secrets and embroiling Taggart in Hostetler’s murky feuds, both politically and on a personal level.
Nothing about ‘Broken City’ is original, each character flat and one dimensional, picked from the bargain bucket of film stereotypes and thrown together in a tired plot; the beaten down ex-cop with an alcohol problem, the crooked Mayor, more gangster than politician and the mysterious hard faced wife with a hidden vulnerability. However worn out the concept is, if you see past the ‘movie plot generator’ used to build it, it is a very enjoyable watch and I can think of worse ways to pass a couple of hours. It can be pleasant having the opportunity to sit back and take in the swooping location shots and admire the slick visuals, knowing the narrative will play out steadily where you expect it to, with no nasty surprises.
I think even the stars suspect the predictable nature of the film, and seem to put that to one side and enjoy themselves which is great to see. Mark Wahlberg, who in recent roles seems to be either underplaying the super serious type, see The Fighter, or overplaying the goofball, see Ted, and here he manages to combine the two, portraying the tough guy with a sense of humour, and he is genuinely funny this time. Russell Crowe also seems very much at ease with his part, spouting lines with venom and giving dirty looks, behind the ‘good guy’ persona he flaunts to his voters. The script is fair, dialogue sub-standard but lifted by the performances. Kyle Chandler pops up yet again, perfecting the ‘angry man in suit’ part he seems to picking up in many of the recent releases and Zeta Jones is quietly passable, her screen presence juxtaposing her character’s fear of her husband.
A decent attempt at rejuvenating a well known formula into something current though it falls short, lacking impact. On a brighter note, it’s a joy to watch the two stars give solid performances, sharing a few gripping scenes and aesthetically, it’s an ambitious homage, achieving the noir look it is going for. If the screenplay was as fitting a tribute as the visuals, then it would hold more value. Don’t expect this film to change your life, it won’t even make much of a difference to your week.
See the trailer: