Review: “Broken City”

Broken City

Who knew there were crooked politicians?

In this political thriller directed by Allen Hughes (1/2 of the brother duo behind “The Book of Eli”), an ex-cop (Mark Wahlberg) is caught in an unhealthy partenership with a corrupt mayor (Russell Crowe). After a bad shoot, Billy Taggart retires from the police force at the urging of Mayor Hostetler and police chief Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright). Years later, Taggart, who works as a private investigator, is called into the mayor’s office for a special case: finding the mayor’s wife’s lover.

After accepting the case, Taggart slowly uncovers that the case is about more than just the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). If you can figure out the majority of the rest of the film, you’re not alone. There are several good things about “Broken City,” but originality is not one of them.

Wahlberg and Crowe do what they can with the script. The latter is a scene-chewing performance that is fun to watch while the former is more of an everyman character that could have been played by half of Hollywood to the same effect. The rest of the cast is made up of a criminally underused Zeta-Jones and Wright’s best attempts at a noteworthy performance. Two other notable characters are a great Barry Pepper as Crowe’s political rival and Alona Tal playing Wahlberg’s Veronica Mars-esque assistant.

In order for a mainstream political thriller like this to be exceptional, the plot (and the conspiracy) have to be intriguing but simple enough to follow. The second part is where “Broken City” has some problems. What the evil mayor and his friends are up to is pretty standard stuff to find in this kind of movie, but a lot of the details are easy to miss due to some of the wording of the dialogue, etc. There’s a lot of tell and not a lot of show, so things can be confusing.

This film marks the first time either of the Hughes brothers have made a feature film on their own and it shows. Together the duo has put together a pretty good resume, but something seems to be missing from “Broken City.” When Albert Hughes makes his first solo film, “Motor City,” we’ll see if things are better.

I went into this film with fairly low expectations, since it was getting poor reviews, but found “Broken City” to be an enjoyable way to spend two hours. It certainly could have used a re-write or two, but there are much worse ways to spend an afternoon. This is an example of a good cast trying its best to save a mediocre film.

Grade: C+

I’ve recently been able to see this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short and Documentary Short, so hopefully I get some time to write about those leading up to the Academy Awards. In the meantime, I’ll try to get some more consistent posting.

Happy viewing.


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