Move Review: Broken City


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler, Natalie Martinez

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence, Running time 109 minutes, Action/Mystery/Crime

Compare to: Body of Lies (2008), Contraband (2011)

Mark Wahlberg and Russel Crowe showing up in this movie together is fated. Their choices in roles are so winding and twisted like lines on a map that it’s inevitable at some point, lines would intersect if only for a brief moment, then be back on their way as if it never happened in the first place.

That’s what Broken City is too. Random, brief, forgettable.

Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) is a police detective involved in a controversial shooting and by the grace of God, and Mayor Hostetler (Crowe), kept out of doing any jail time. Several years later, Billy is called back to do a surveillance job for Hostetler, to find out if his wife is cheating on him. But when the affair is exposed and the man in question turns up dead, Billy finds out he may be in over his head.

This film could’ve been something due to the cast alone. Not that the names presented always insure quality but often times, performances feel phoned in. Crowe is recalling his Ed Hoffman, corrupt CIA chief in 2008’s Body of Lies. Menacing and threatening sure, until he bares his teeth and you realize he has none.

Atticus Ross, our composer here is a frequent collaborator with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, the pair working on the amazing soundtrack to 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Ross is by himself here and unfortunately, we’re not presented with similar quality. The fuzzy, industrial cues are distracting here, from a perspective that’s already confused, which brings me to the real problem here anyway- story.

Forced complexity in a fairly simple set up causes confusion. Not that you’ll be confused as to what’s going on, that stays simple- everybody is corrupt- what’s confusing is all the unnecessarily added garbage about what makes Crowe’s character soooo corrupt.

Barry Pepper pops up with a similar character name Bob Hoskins owns in Who Framed Roger Rabbit- Jack Valliant. However, while I find it fitting in Hoskins’ film because hey- it’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, here, they may as well have named him Bobby Honestguy or John Truthfulness, because that’s exactly what his character is supposed to be: the single honest man in the city. Director Allen Hughes, directing for the first time without his brother, makes sure to get in there what he thinks makes an honest, political candidate would believe in, juxtaposed to the clearly right-wing Crowe. I always find it funny when a film maker wants you to be on a character’s side by putting their beliefs out in the open as though they’re objectively noble when it in actuality, is simply an opinion, thereby eliminating potential fans of your story.

But using the word “story” is weak here, and if you even think for a second a character is in some way corrupt, even for a moment- they are. This takes away from any curve balls they attempt to throw at you later on. It was easy to call certain twists literally thirty minutes before they happened. This is not good, Hughes.

It’s tough to get behind a movie that thinks it’s giving you a new perspective on the corruption of politics, much like Ides of March seemed to think it was doing. Everybody’s so TWISTED! Oh no! It all feels trite and used up way before the movie finally ends.

Grade: D


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