Director: Allen Hughes
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper
Running Time: 109 min
Release: 1st March
Broken City stars Mark Wahlberg as a disgraced NYPD detective named Billy Taggart, who, following a shooting which may or may not have been self defence, now works as a private detective. Taggart is hired by the powerful and charismatic Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to find out whether or not his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair. Taggart’s investigation finds him drawn into a dark world of shady deals, political corruption and murder. And when faced with a damning piece of evidence Taggart must decide if he’s strong enough to go up against the most powerful man in the city.
In spite of a strong cast and a talented director, Broken City is let down by a routine and by the numbers script. There isn’t a single story twist or character beat that occurs that will come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen a thriller in the last 20 years, and it’s a frustrating experience to watch a story unfold whilst constantly being two steps ahead of the protagonist. Not helping matters are some needless subplots—such as Taggart’s actress girlfriend making her film debut—that only serve as distractions to the main narrative.
On the plus side the film is greatly bolstered by its excellent cast, with Russell Crowe being the standout as the Mayor, a part he digs his teeth into with great relish. One moment he can be witty and affable, and the next a thuggish bully. Credit should also go to actor Barry Pepper for his layered turn as Jack Valliant (not the most subtle character name I grant you), Hostetler’s rival in the Mayoral elections. The debate scene between the two characters is the film’s highlight, a bruising verbal boxing match as they battle for the moral soul of the city. It’s just a pity the film couldn’t come alive in this way more often.
Wahlberg does solid work as Taggart but unfortunately he’s been lumbered with the film’s least interesting character. Taggart should have been much more morally complex and conflicted, but the film’s need to make him sympathetic at every turn ultimately hampers the character’s redemptive journey.
While it boosts some terrific performances Broken City unfortunately falls flat as a thriller. This is a shame, because with a stronger script worthy of the talent assembled this could have been something special. But if nothing else, it’s nice to see a film set in New York that looks like it was actually filmed there.