Political thrillers lacking any sort of real thrill face an uphill battle right from the start, which is one of the key problems with Broken City. The formula is there, the flawed hero is there, and the corrupted politician is there, but the thrill simply isn’t. So does that mean Broken City isn’t worth checking out? Well that depends, are you a fan of Mark Wahlberg?
Wahlberg stars as ex-cop Billy Taggart, a man who stands up for what he believes in even if he has to blur the lines of legality when doing so. The film begins with Taggart on trial for the murder of a young man who had previously been tried for the rape and murder of a teenage girl but was never convicted. Taggart claims self-defense and the state is unable to prove otherwise, so Taggart is released; however, a rumoured piece of evidence that went “missing” but claims to prove Taggart’s guilt is enough to force Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Police Chief Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) to take Taggart’s badge and have him step down so that there’s no blowback.
Seven years later, and Taggart is a private eye with a somewhat violent edge about him. The mayor – who is only a few days away from Election Day – hires Taggart to follow his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and see if she’s having an affair. With the election right around the corner, Mayor Hostetler fears that his opposition will find this out and use it against him to gain leverage in the polls, and Taggart – who is hard up for money – agrees to the hefty payday. Of course, not everything is what it seems, as Taggart quickly finds out that the mayor had ulterior motives when hiring him – motives that will bring the past to the present, and put blood on Taggart’s hands once more.
It’s clear that all the political noir-type notes are being hit along the way. Nevertheless, Broken City becomes convoluted at times to the point where there’s just too many characters we don’t care about, or don’t really have the impact they should when it comes right down to it. Chief Fairbanks is one of those characters, as when the film flash-forwards seven years, Fairbanks has become the police commissioner with his own secrets. The thing is, he’s not a character that has clear intentions or reasoning and it comes off feeling sloppy when he’s added to the story.
Another main issue is that nothing ever feels very subtle, and all the information is passed along rather heavy-handed. Characters will either say things far too bluntly, or they’ll talk in riddles to the point where even Taggarty says, “Doesn’t anybody in this town speak in complete sentences anymore?” It’s a funny line, and it suits the movie well. While giving the information away freely is just as bad, having the characters talk the way they do sometimes just seems to drag things on unnecessarily.
The highlights of the film are its two stars; Wahlberg and Crowe really give it their all in a story that pretty much falls flat around them. Wahlberg’s convincing as a guy with a troubled past, who is doing his best to stay on the straight and narrow, but constantly seems to run into things that knocks him off along the way. Crowe is also on his game here, as I think it’s easy for people to forget just what a great actor the man really is. It doesn’t help that he keeps ending up in completely underwhelming, average flicks like Broken City, though he does make watching them that much more tolerable. His work here as the crooked mayor is spot-on, as he gives some truly villainous and eloquent speeches throughout that really bring the character to life.
Broken City is one of those films with a title that begs the movie to be good enough to look past it, because otherwise you end up with the following: Broken City is indeed broken. And it is. While it’s not bad enough to warrant being turned off, it’s also not good enough to deserve any real involvement by the viewer either. If you’re not a fan of either Wahlberg or Crowe, odds are you should skip over this one, as they’re the two driving forces that make Broken City tolerable.
The video transfer of the film looks great, as the darks are rich and the colours are as vibrant as they need to be. The audio transfer is also well done, as the sound effects, music and dialogue all come through clearly, helping bring to life the world around the characters quite well.
Deleted Scenes – There are a handful of deleted scenes which hit the cutting room floor for a reason that will be clear to you if you decide to check them out.
Putting It All Together – This is a 35-minute feature that touches on the making of Broken City from the selling of the script, through production. It’s an interesting watch that actually makes you wonder if Broken City is a better read than it ended up being a film, as the script was voted one of the best unproduced films circulating Hollywood a few years back.
Broken City is a political thriller that seems content to just hit the required marks along the way, without ever attempting to push the envelope at any point in time. There’s an excess of unnecessary characters that end up slowing down the pace and convoluting the plot in ways that just aren’t needed. In the end, Broken City is worth checking out if you’re a fan of Wahlberg and Crowe, and even that may not be enough for you.
Regency Enterprises and Emmett/Furla Films Presents Broken City. Directed by: Allen Hughes. Written by: Brian Tucker. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey Wright, Alona Tal, Kyle Chandler, Natalie Martinez. Running time: 109 minutes. Rating: R. Released: April 30, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Broken City, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe