“Broken City” should have been a great flick but, it fails miserably to deliver on so many levels. Talented actors disappoint; lame scripting annoys; and mediocre directing bores in this short-on-thrills thriller.
Everything about the plot seems too familiar. Russell Crowe plays Nick Hostetler, a corrupt yet popular NYC mayor. Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), a disgraced former-police-detective-turned-private-eye, is hired by Hostetler to spy on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The mayoral election is pending and Hostetler’s opponent, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), doesn’t need any dirt to sway voters.
It doesn’t take a genius to smell a setup 10 minutes into the film. The wife’s supposed affair is just a cover-up for a massive real-estate scam, which may go public if Valliant’s campaign manager, Paul Chandler (Kyle Chandler), isn’t wacked. Seems Chandler has the goods on Hostetler and, oh, by the way, happens to be a very close friend of the mayor’s wife. Taggart has the photos but, looks can be deceiving.
It’s extremely difficult to fall for this full-of-holes plotline. From the onset, we’re aware that Taggart is beholden to Hostetler but we’re supposed to conveniently forget that little piece of information. And why Taggart doesn’t make the connection early on makes him look foolish. Screenwriter Brian Tucker assumes the audience is as gullible as Taggart. It’s insulting.
And what’s with actors of this caliber agreeing to participate in such pretentious nonsense? Oscar-winner Crowe (“Gladiator”) is one of the most gifted actors out there and he looks downright freaky, sporting a spray tan and bad rug in the film. Some of his lines are laughable when, I presume, were not written as such. Wahlberg, whose acting abilities are getting better with age (“The Fighter”), slips a few rungs down the ladder with his incredible naïveté in a role that probably didn’t call for it. Zeta-Jones is stunning in her portrayal of the husband-hater-wife, but she has so little screen time that she can’t save this sinking ship.
Director Allen Hughes, who has made five films with his co-director brother, Albert Hughes, ventures out on his own in “Broken City.” His previous work in “The Book of Eli” and “Menace II Society” were successful and well-made movies. But “Broken City” lacks the style and suspense it trys so desperately to convey.
Beware of films that are released in January. Studios recognize that audiences are eagerly attempting to catch the quality fare nominated for awards this time of year. When Allen Hughes was asked what his brother thought of his first solo movie, his reply was that Albert hadn’t seen it yet. He may want to keep it that way.
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