It’s January, which means it is time for Hollywood to roll out the mediocre films of the year in an attempt to grab viewers before the blockbusters catch momentum. Sometimes gems are found among the rubble. When those gems are found grab hold and enjoy, because they are few and far between. Unfortunately for Broken City, this film is not one of those gems.
Broken City tells the story of William Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) a New York City detective hired by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to find out if his wife is cheating on him. The mayor is running for re-election and doesn’t want any surprises to surface a week before the election that may cause him to lose. This being a political thriller, the wife couldn’t just simply be cheating on the mayor. There are some twists and turns that move the story along to its inevitable conclusion, but there is no real suspense to be found in its near two hour run time.
Let’s first look at the story. Political intrigue is not a new genre of film. Maintaining power at all costs by a corrupt leader is a story as old as time. So what did Broken City bring new to the film to carry the genre forward? Sadly, nothing is new or different. All the angles the film attempts to take are evident to the viewer even before the film’s intended foreshadowing takes place. Detective Taggart commits a crime at the beginning that will, no doubt, resurface towards the end and force him to make a life altering decision. The director should have paused the film and super imposed himself telling the audience to, “Remember this moment. We will come back to it later.” Taggart is also a recovering alcoholic with a bad temper that inevitably will fall of the wagon and become the monster he needs to be to serve the right kind of justice. The big reveal, that shows us how crooked this “man of the people” mayor is, is so cliched that the viewer can tell from the first ten minutes of the film how it is going to end.
So, how about the acting? The cast is lengthy here, including Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper and Kyle Chandler. This is a cast the viewer should be able to get behind. If there is one thing that an audience can be assured of it is that in a film where Mark Wahlberg needs to be a bad ass, he is going to pull it off. Fear, Four Brothers, Shooter and even last January’s Contraband all showcase the “uber tough” take no prisoner style of hero that needed to be part of Wahlberg’s Taggart in this film. Sadly, the performance is flaccid. Taggart never achieves the level of tough guy the audience needs him to be. His alcoholic break down is laughable at best. The director tries to create his masculinity with a few close-ups shots of Wahlberg delivering preview worthy one-liners, but that is where the machismo ends. Russell Crowe’s mayor was about winning at all costs. This is evident by the fact that he has his own wife investigated days before the election is to be held. But only once do we really get a sense that this man would do anything to stay in power.
Overall this film fails to take the viewer anywhere. The performances don’t pull you into a weak story so rife with cliche that it ends up being two hours of wasted time.
Do not spend your hard earned money on this film in theaters. If you subscribe to pay channels or video on demand services wait for it. Even then, there are better films in the same genre to spend your time with.