Broken City

Broken City suffers from multiple fractures that not even its award-winning star cast can mend.

With the on-going awards season, it’s not surprising to see straggling hopefuls vying for a lasting impression. Amongst the hordes, Broken City sticks out like a sore thumb.

On the outside, first-timer Brian Tucker’s screenplay is a complex case of convoluted civic corruption carved into concentric circles. Like the excessive use of Cs in that last sentence, once you break it down (and you easily will), the inside is nothing but a paint-by-numbers picture that starts and ends at the same point. In other words, you don’t go anywhere and neither does the plot. The only person running around is Mark Wahlberg’s Billy Taggart, a former NYPD cop who just happens to be the apple in the mayor’s eye; or so it seems. Seven years after a fatal mishap, Billy is a struggling private investigator who lands his first major case thanks to Mayor Nicholas Hostetler’s (Russell Crowe) growing suspicion that his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) could be having an extramarital affair. Hostetler’s lifestyle is enviable for a city Mayor but chances of a re-election are slipping through his own fingers. Standing in his way is his wife’s suspected infidelity—which could be seen as a sign of weakness—and competition from ivy-league opponent Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). This is the cue for Taggart, but what he finds makes him a target instead. Taggart must now choose between blowing the whistle on high level corruption or coming clean by airing out his own dirty laundry first.

Last seen in the lukewarm crime thriller Contraband, Mark Wahlberg returns to a role he has played over and over again. No problem there and it is always interesting to see Wahlberg play a blue-collared average Joe who finds himself knee-deep in a quick sinking predicament. You can also expect that his average Joe is an angry average Joe with that familiar five o’clock shadow. Even if you have seen Wahlberg play this role before, his Billy Taggart is the only character that has a relatable story to tell. On the other hand, Crowe’s New York Mayor is way over the top with a high profile security detail and a stratospherically lavish lifestyle. There is a glimmer of that sly antagonism we last saw in Body Of Lies, but his New Yorker swagger is as believable as a tsunami in the Australian Outback. Zeta-Jones plays her part, opulent as the mayor’s wife but brooding with the sort of reluctant incumbency that never gets a proper explanation.

Don’t worry too much, if like me, you fail to find the story entertaining or meaningful. At its most redeeming level, Broken City attempts a social message to say that at some point, everyone falls off the wagon; that getting back up and realising where you fell is the measure of an individual walking the straight and the narrow. The problem with this message is in its weak and bland delivery. As such, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wondering why you wasted your time watching this movie in the first place. Director Allen Hughes is not new to potboilers that talk of urban corrosion within the fabric of society. His past films most notably Menace II Society and Book Of Eli were strong narratives on preserving and professing society’s most fragile values of truth and compassion. Sadly, Broken City suffers from multiple fractures that not even its award-winning star cast can mend.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.